Official BFI 2023 statistics reveal £4.23 billion film and high-end television production spend in the UK

UK/Ireland box office generated £986 million over the year, with Barbie the biggest film of 2023 and The Great Escaper leading the UK independent chart.

1 February 2024

Barbie (2023) © Courtesy of Warner Bros

The latest official figures published today by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit show that in a year in which film and high-end TV production was impacted globally by the Hollywood strikes, the UK’s production continued to generate billions to the UK economy. The combined spend by film and high-end television production (HETV) 2023 reached £4.23 billion, 32% down on 2022 but almost level with pre-pandemic levels.

The lion’s share of the total £4.23 billion production spend was contributed by HETV shows with £2.87 billion, or 68%; with feature film production contributing £1.36 billion, or 32% of the total spend.

Inward investment and co-production films and HETV shows combined, delivered £3.31 billion, or 78% of the combined production spend continuing to demonstrate the UK’s global reputation as the world-leading centre for international film and TV production.

Of the total £2.87 billion spend on 187 HETV productions in 2023:

  • inward investment shows contributed £2.07 billion (72% of total HETV spend), a 43% decrease on 2022;
  • domestic UK shows accounted for £766 million (27% of total HETV spend), a 21% increase on 2022; and
  • co-production spend was £38.9 million (1.4% of total spend), a 7% increase on 2022.

Of the total £1.36 billion spend on 207 film productions in 2023:

  • inward investment films contributed £1.04 billion (77% of total film spend), a 40% decrease on 2022);
  • domestic UK films accounted for £150.2 million (just over 11% of total film spend) a 13% decrease on 2022); and
  • co-production spend accounted for £162.8 million (just over 12% of total film spend), more than two and a half times spend in 2022).  

The production statistics also reveal a varying level of investment made by streamer platforms in single long-form ‘film’ productions (ie not episodic or series). In 2023, there were 18 single domestic UK and inward investment productions which contributed £379.2 million to the HETV spend of £2.87 billion. However, the methodology to collate the data requires complicated analysis; whilst most productions for streamers are captured within the data for HETV production because they utilise the HETV cultural test to access tax relief, some are now captured within film data because they utilise the film cultural test. 

Total admissions for 2023 reached 123.6 million admissions, an increase of 5.5% on 2022, underlining a growing recovery after the impact of restrictions during the pandemic but also showing that business is lagging behind the pre-pandemic year of 2019 by 30% (176 million admissions). 

Box office takings in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in 2023 totalled £985.8 million across 822 films, 4% more than £945 million earned by 834 releases in 2022, but 24% behind 2019’s total box office.

The highest grossing release of 2023 was Barbie with £95.6 million, representing 10% of the year’s total box office and outstripping 2022’s top grossing film Top Gun: Maverick (83.7 million).  Barbie’s same-day release partner Oppenheimer is the second biggest film of the year with £58.9 million and is currently still on release. 

The top 20 film releases of the year in the UK and Republic of Ireland also feature ten UK/USA feature films (including one UK/USA/China) made in the UK: Barbie, Wonka, The Little Mermaid, Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning, Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny, Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, Fast X, Napoleon, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves and Meg 2.

Of the top 20 UK qualifying (long-form single episode productions) rather than episodic/series film releases which grossed £372.9 million – 47% more than 2022’s top 20 – 18 are UK collaborations with other countries.

The top grossing UK independent film was The Great Escaper with £5.31 million followed by What’s Love Got to Do with It?, Empire of Light and Allelujah.

The total box office for the 2023 top 20 UK independent films was £33.7 million, 51% behind £69.2 million in 2022, representing 92% of the total box office for UK independent film over the year. Overall, independent UK films account for 3.8% of the total UK box office equating to £37.4 million box office.

While the American strikes mean it has been a challenging year for global film production, the future for British film remains bright as it continues to bring in billions of pounds to our economy. Five of the top ten highest grossing films at the UK box office were made on British soil, which is testament to our film industry’s ability to draw audiences to cinemas and compete on the world stage. Our success is built on the innate talent of our actors, writers, creatives and crews. But it is also a product of this government's efforts - through our tax reliefs and investments in skills, technology and studio infrastructure – to make the UK the best place to write, produce and direct. We will continue to champion our screen sectors as we deliver our plans to boost the creative industries by £50 billion by 2030 and keep the success story of UK studios and cinemas going.Lucy Frazer, Culture Secretary
The production and box office figures that we have published today reflect the different dynamics at play across our sector. Whilst a level of film and high-end television production in the UK was disrupted by strikes in 2024, our industry continues to contribute billions to the UK economy and support a huge range of jobs. At the same time, audiences showed up in record numbers for must-see movies including Barbie, Oppenheimer and Wonka all of which exemplify the talent and artistry of so many UK creatives. And despite notable recent successes such as The Great Escaper, Rye Lane, Scrapper, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Polite Society, we cannot ignore that the statistics also highlight concerns for lower budget UK films, increasingly challenged in securing finance and visibility. Our work and commitment in this area continues.Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive
Globally, the current environment for film and TV production has become challenging for a number of reasons and it will come as no surprise that as a result of industrial action in the US suspending production half way through the year, today’s figures are lower than those for 2022. However, despite this, we remain incredibly proud of the UK’s position as a leading global centre for film and TV production, post and visual effects, attracting international and domestic producers to make their content here. This is the result of our world-class crew base - in which we continue to invest, our generous tax credits - which have once again been enhanced, and our increased UK-wide stage space offer, coupled with our range of cutting-edge facilities and diverse locations.Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission

Film production in detail

The total number of films going into production in the UK in 2023 was 207 which is 13 fewer than reported for 2022. The total spend on film production in the UK in 2023 was £1.36 billion, 31% down from £1.97 billion in 2022 (subsequently updated to £2.2 billion).

The majority of spend in 2023 was contributed by inward investment films with £1.04 billion from 74 features, accounting for 77% of the total UK spend, continuing to demonstrate the UK’s reputation globally as a world-class production hub.  This is 40% lower than the UK spend of £1.74 billion (subsequently revised to £1.94 billion), a predictable impact in light of Hollywood films impacted by the strikes. Film production starts that have rescheduled for 2024 include How To Train Your Dragon and Hedda. Looking back, 2022 reflected a 37% surge in production activity and spend on 2021, as a result of accelerated production activity coming out of the pandemic. Inward investment films which contributed to the £1.04 billion spend included Beetlejuice 2, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Heads of State.

Of the 207 films starting production, 95 are domestic UK features (almost evenly split between higher and lower budget features) contributing £150.2 million in spend, a 13% decrease on the £173.6 million spend in 2022 subsequently updated to £201.3 million). Films which went into production included The Salt Path, Jackdaw and The Radleys.

A further 37 UK-international co-productions generated a UK spend of £162.8 million, more than two and a half times more than the spend across 30 co-productions in 2022. As a result, 2023’s co-production spend is now the highest since 2013.  Co-productions included Paddington In Peru and We Live In Time.

UK production spend in 2023 by non-US studio films (includes UK and non-studio inward investment independent productions) was £653.2 million.  This represents 48% of total UK film production spend, the highest since 2008.  Non-US studio inward investment films generated a spend of £340.2 million (£382.2 million in 2022); domestic non-studio films generated a spend of £150.2 million (£173.6 million in 2022); and non-US co-productions generated a spend of £162.8 million (£59.1 million in 2022).

While single films shown on streaming platforms such as Netflix, amazon, Disney+ and Apple TV are made in the same way as films for cinema release, their production spend is largely included within the total spend for HETV, as they qualify for HETV tax relief: there are a few single films funded by streamers which are captured within the film statistics. The 12 long-form single episode HETV projects in 2023 such as Joseph Konsinski’s Apex and Ben Taylor’s Joy, UK spend of £379.2 million, representing a 59% drop in spend in 2022 of £938.8 million (revised to £1.01 billion) across 22 productions. The Hollywood strikes would also have impacted production starts.  

High-end television production in detail

In general, HETV production in the UK has boomed since the introduction of the UK’s HETV tax relief in 2013.  In 2023, UK spend was £2.87 billion, a 33% decrease from £4.30 billion in 2022 (revised to £4.85 billion), the highest year on record and recognised for an acceleration in production following disruption during the pandemic.  However, the 2023 spend represents an 25% increase on 2019’s pre-pandemic spend £2.29 billion (revised to £2.47 billion).

Of the 187 HETV productions that started principal photography in 2023, spend on inward investment shows accounted for 72% of the total with a spend of £2.07 billion, a 42% decrease on 2022’s £3.63 billion.  Domestic production spend of £766 million, accounting for 27% of total HETV spend and a 21% increase on £632.7 million in 2022.  Co-productions accounted for just over 1% of the total spend with £38.9 million (close to £36.5 million in 2022).

The total spend across the 91 domestic UK productions represents the highest level of spend for this area of HETV production since the introduction of the tax relief in 2013. Domestic HETV productions included Call The Midwife (series 13), Rebus, Trigger Point (series 2), Dope Girls, Waterloo Road (series 12), McDonald & Dodds (series 4) and After The Flood.

This £2.07 billion spend in inward investment HETV shows spend is ahead of £1.96 billion in 2019 with 2021 and 2022 significantly higher (£4.0 billion and £4.2 billon respectively) as production in the UK accelerated out of the pandemic. Inward investment HETV productions made last year include House Of The Dragon, A Thousand Blows and Doctor Who (series 15). 

The £38.9 million UK spend across 7 co-productions in 2023 is the highest level recorded, nudging ahead of £36.4 million 2022. HETV co-productions included The Heist Before Christmas.

Film and high-end television production generates local business activity and jobs across the UK. Productions made across the UK last year included: 

  • London: film – Back To Black, Paddington In Peru, Hamlet, Cleaner, We Live In time, heavyweight;  HETV  – The Diplomat (season 2), Sweetpea, Starstruck (series 3), Belgravia: The Next Chapter, Breeders 9season 4), Surface (season2), Ruth, Gangs of London 3, Black Doves
  • East of England:  film – Beetlejuice 2, Ghostbusters; Frozen Empire, A Quiet Place: Day One, Suryast, Venom 3;  HETV – Grantchester (series 9), Here We Go (series 2), House Of The Dragon (season 2), Say Nothing, Suspect (season 3), Silo (season 2), A Very Royal Scandal
  • East Midlands:  HETV – After The Flood, Apex, Sherwood (series 2),The Veil
  • West Midlands: film – Asa Mee, Ashi Mee, Brown Baabe, Hey Siri Ve Siri, Om Sweet Home, Peaky Blinders: The Redemption of Thomas Shelby,  Second Chance; HETV – Di Ray (series 2), Joan
  • North-east:  film – Jackdaw, The Gorge; HETV – After The Flood, The Red King, Vera (series 13), Without Guilt
  • North-west: film – Robin And The Hood, Savvi;  HETV – Boiling Point, Brassic (series 6), Fool Me Once, Inside No 9 (series 9), The Bay (series 5), The Responder (series 2), The Tower (series 3), Waterloo Road (series 12, 13)
  • South-east: film – The Amateur, Deadpool 3, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Heads Of State, Here, Paddington In Peru, Sonic The Hedgehog 3; HETV – Call The Midwife (series 13), The Devil’s Hour (season 2), Ghosts (series 5), Knuckles, Mary & George, Mr Bates vs The Post Office, Midsomer Murders (season2), The Sandman (season 2)
  • South-west: film –Heretic, The Salt Path, Speak no Evil, Surviving Earth, Winter Of The Crow; HETV – Beyond Paradise (series 2), Boarders, The Hoard, The Killing Kind, McDonald & Dodds 9series 4), The Outlaws (series 3), Playing Nice
  • Yorkshire and the Humber: film – The Radleys;   HETV –  After The Flood, All Creatures Great And Small (series 4), A Gentleman In Moscow, Hullraisers, The Jetty, The Regime, Say Nothing, Toxic Town, Without Guilt
  • Northern Ireland:  film – The Dead From The Sea, Four Letters Of Love, Kneecap, The Morrigan, Old Guy, Sunrise;  HETV – Blue Lights (series 2), Breathtaking, The Heist Before Christmas, Showtrial 2, Wreck 9series 2)
  • Scotland:  film – Bade Miyan Chote Miyan, Bhai Bhai, Damaged, the Fall Of Sir Douglas Weatherford, Harvest, On Falling, Row; HETV – Granite Harbour (series 2), Mary & George, Nightsleeper, Redbus, The Rig (season 2), Shetland (series 8), Vigil (series 2)
  • Wales:  film – Brides, Eternal Return, One For The Money, The Salt Path; HETV – Doctor Who (series 15), Dope Girls, Gen Z, House of The Dragon (season 2), Industry (series 3), Lost Boys And Fairies, Men Up, Paris Has Fallen, Out There

Box office and admissions in 2023

Whilst audiences are returning to cinemas with 2023’s total box office of £985.8 million for the UK and Republic of Ireland (UK/ROI) being 4% ahead of 2022 (£945 million), it is still 24% below 2019’s pre-pandemic £1.3 billion.  The average UK ticket price in 2023 was £7.92, an increase of 3% on £7.70 in 2022, and 11% higher than £7.12 in 2019. 

Looking at cinema box office revenues across the UK in 2023, England was 8% higher than in 2022 and 23% lower than in 2019 and the comparative trends for both Scotland and Wales correspond with that with England.  Northern Ireland shows a different picture with the total box office for 2023 only 3% below the total box office earned in 2019.

The highest grossing release of 2023 was Barbie with £95.6 million, representing 10% of the year’s total box office followed by Oppenheimer with £58.9 million. Barbie is the fifth highest earning film at the UK/ROI box office, sitting between 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home (£97.2 million) and 2015’s Spectre(£95.6 million).

Barbie and Oppenheimer were released on the same day in July and were highly anticipated by the media and audiences creating a cinematic and popular culture moment which became know as Barbenheimer. UK cinema admissions in July and August leapt to 17.6 million and 14.6 million respectively, a long way ahead of the monthly average of 10.3 million and the highest since 18.5 in December 2019. Both are original, non-franchise films. Prequels, sequels, live action remakes or part of pre-existing franchises account for 16 of the top 20 box office placings in 2023, a higher number  than in 2022 which had 12 films in top 20.

Four toy, game and video games based/inspired adaptations ranked amongst the top 20 releases at the UK/ROI box office: Barbie, The Super Mario Bros Movie, Trolls Band Together and Dungeons And Dragons: Honour Amongst Thieves. Their total box office was £179.7 million, or 18.7% of the year’s total revenue.

Musicals, music-centred titles, and filmed concerts were also major box office draws in 2023. Wonka and The Little Mermaid both feature in the top ten films of the year, with three other films with music-based segments ranking in the top 20 releases – Barbie, Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds and Snakes and Trolls Band Together. Wonka is now the second highest earning musical on record at the UK/ROI box office, behind Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (£65.6 million).

Two music-based cinema releases are not included total box office revenues as they are event/concert releases rather than feature films – Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is the most successful event release ever in the UK/ROI with £12.3 million. Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce was the second highest earning event release of the year with £1.7 million.

The top 20 films of 2023 collectively grossed £588.6 million representing 61% of the total box office in 2023.  The top 20 films in 2022 took £644.6 million, or 67% of the total box office. Looking back at 2019, the Top 20 grossed £753 million, accounting for 60% of total box office for that year.

The total box office for the top 20 independent UK films was £33.7 million, accounting for 89% of the total box office for all independent UK films released. The top grossing UK independent film in 2023 was The Great Escaper, the highest earning UK independent film of 2023. It was the only film to exceed £5 million at the box office with £5.3 million. In 2022 four UK independent releases grossed more than £5 million led by Belfast (£15.6 million).

Three of the top 20 UK independent films were supported by public funding: The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry (£3.38 million), Rye Lane (£1.23 million), The Old Oak (£1.10 million), Scrapper (£0.58m), How To Have Sex (£0.39 million) and Blue Jean (£0.33 million).

In total, UK-qualifying films (including UK independent films and other UK qualifying films ), accounted for a 41.1% share of the box office compared to 29.6% in 2022. Breaking this down 3.8% was accounted for by UK independent films, half of the 7.9% for 2022 and the lowest on record. The balancing share of 37.1% was accounted for by other UK qualifying films (which includes US-studio backed films). The UK-made Barbie  contributed a significant part of the uplift from 21.7% for other UK qualifying films in 2022.

In 2023 the total box office for UK films was £401.9 million, with UK independent film releases earning £37.8 million. In 2022 the comparable box office total was £279.7 million for all UK films and £74.7 million for UK independent films. In 2019,  the total box office revenues earned by UK films was £620.5 million with UK independent releases making £174.3 million.