Many view the film industry as a global marketplace with a plethora of opportunities for international films to cross borders and become successes. It may therefore come as a surprise to some that the majority of box office income for British* films is domestic**!
*this article will mainly cover UK films that are produced independently in Britain.
**UK territory is viewed as England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Where do British films earn money?
Based on a BFI analysis of ComScore data, it becomes clear that the majority of films with a budget under £5 million earned over half their global box office income from within the UK. One of the factors for why these films earn more money domestically than abroad could be because of their limited budget, allowing for lesser distribution worldwide. You may think that this is only a small percentage of UK-produced films but in reality, 95.8% of British films produced between 2008 and 2013 cost under £5 million, with a hefty 47% registering a budget under £150 thousand.
How much global box office goes to UK films?
Independent UK films collected only 1.2% of the global box office in 2016, a significant drop when compared to a high of 3.2% in 2014. However, it is important to note that UK cinema is a tale of two worlds: those produced independently, and those which are studio-backed. Due to the recent boom of American/British co-productions, it isn’t surprising that a weighty 15.2% of global revenue goes to these films. Films like 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which grossed $812.5 million worldwide, are filmed in the UK (often with primarily British casts) but backed by large US studios and therefore have a wider reach in terms of box office success.
Which countries love British cinema?
While independent British films are highly successful in New Zealand, capturing almost 5% of the country’s box office income, they perform badly in certain Asian territories, particularly China, Japan and South Korea.
Which British films export well?
With the conflicting statistics of British film’s success overseas, it’s easy to wonder which UK films do perform successfully overseas. In 2016, the best performing independent British films included The Danish Girl and Florence Foster Jenkins. Besides these films, which received critical and commercial acclaim both at home and abroad, is it possible to view a larger trend of British films that find commercial success outside the UK?
In 2012, David Steele published a paper entitled ‘International Territory Review’ which looked at the global market for UK films. Among his findings, Steele discovered a pattern and formula for UK films which achieve commercial success once exported:
- Biopics of internationally recognised British figures (The King’s Speech, The Iron Lady)
- Medium budget films with A-List stars (Nanny McPhee, Johnny English)
- British films with a cultural or national connection to the country in question (Senna, Jean Charles)
- British films with story content of universal appeal (Slumdog Millionaire, Life)