Film production in the UK has experienced a number of booms and recessions over the years.
Although many factors can be used to measure the success of the industry, the number of British films produced each year gives an overview of its development.
The 1930s Boom
By the mid-twenties the British film industry was losing out to heavy competition from Hollywood, the latter helped by having a much larger home market.
The amount of British films shown in the UK in 1914
The amount shown in 1926
The Cinematograph Films Act passed to boost local production, requiring that British cinemas show a certain percentage of British films for 10 years.
‘ Quota quickies': poor quality, low cost films, made in order to satisfy the Cinematograph Act.
Critics have blamed the quickies for holding back the development of the industry.
Michael Powell Alfred Hitchcock.
World War II
The war years also saw the flowering partnership of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger who produced such films as…
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
A Canterbury Tale (1944)
These films were more about the people affected by war rather than battles.
Building on the success British cinema had enjoyed during World War II, the industry hit new heights of creativity in the immediate post-war years.
The Red Shoes
Hamlet – 1 st non-US film to win Oscar for Best Picture
The British New Wave / Kitchen Sink Realism
Term used to describe a group of films made between 1955 and 1963 which portrayed a more gritty form of social realism than had been seen in British cinema previously.
Films often associated with a new openness about working class life, and previously taboo issues such as abortion and homosexuality
Key filmmakers of New Wave British Cinema
Together with future James Bond producer Harry Saltzman, John Osborne and Tony Richardson established the company Woodfall Films to produce their early feature films.
Look Back in Anger
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
A Kind of Loving
This Sporting Life
Overseas film makers were attracted to Britain at this time.
The most important perhaps being Stanley Kubrick who remained in England for the rest of his life
2001: A Space Odyssey
A Clockwork Orange
US & UK Recession - American studios cut back on domestic production, and in many cases withdrew from financing British films altogether.
Big Screen versions of TV shows Steptoe and Son and On the Buses proved successful with domestic audiences.
The other major influence on British comedy films in the decade was the Monty Python group, also from television.
Most successful films:
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
Relaxed censorship meant several controversial films:
Straw Dogs (1971),
A Clockwork Orange (1971).
1977-79 - American productions return to the major British studios including Star Wars at Elstree Studios, Superman at Pinewood, and Alien at Shepperton.
Early 80’s - Worst recession ever seen by the industry
Number of British films made in 1980
Lowest output since 1914
Number of British films made in 1981
Goldcrest, Channel 4, Handmade Films and Merchant Ivory Productions.
These companies gave the industry renewed optimism
Conservative Government gets rid of the Eady tax concession
The concession made it possible for a foreign film company to write off a large amount of its production costs by filming in the UK — this was what attracted a succession of blockbuster productions to British studios in the 1970s. With Eady gone many studios closed or focused on television work.
Film production in Britain hit one of its all-time lows
British Cinema in the 1990s
UK Cinema audiences were climbing in the UK in the early 1990s
But few British films were enjoying significant commercial success, even in the home market.
The Madness of King George (1994) proved there was still a market for the traditional British costume drama, and a large number of other period films followed, including
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
Mrs. Brown (1997)
The Wings of the Dove (1997)
Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Several of these were funded by Miramax Films , who also took over Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996) when the production ran into difficulties during filming.
Although technically an American production, the success of this film, including its 9 Academy Award wins would bring further prestige to British film-makers.
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Led to renewed interest and investment in British films, and set a pattern for British-set romantic comedies, including Sliding Doors (1998) and Notting Hill (1999).
Working Title Films , the company behind many of these films, quickly became one of the most successful British production companies of recent years, with other box office hits including:
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001).
New appetite for British comedy films lead to the popular comedies Brassed Off (1996), and The Full Monty (1997).
$4m – Production cost
$257m international gross
Studios were encouraged to start smaller subsidiaries dedicated to looking for other low budget productions capable of producing similar returns.
National Lottery funding
A production boom occurred
Only a few of these films found significant commercial success, many went unreleased.
These included several gangster films attempting to imitate Guy Ritchie's black comedies Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Snatch (2000).
American productions also began to return to British studios in the mid-1990s
Interview with the Vampire (1994),
Mission: Impossible (1996),
The Fifth Element (1997),
Saving Private Ryan (1998),
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) and
The Mummy (1999),
2000 and beyond…
British cinema since 2000
The new century has so far been a relatively successful one for the British film industry.
Many British films have found a wide international audience, and some of the independent production companies, such as Working Title , have secured financing and distribution deals with major American studios.
Working Title + Hugh Grant = major international successes:
(+ Well known American actress)
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
$254 million world-wide
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
Love Actually (2003) Richard Curtis's directorial debut
Critically-acclaimed films such as
Gosford Park (2001),
Pride and Prejudice (2005),
The Constant Gardener (2005),
The Queen (2006)
The Last King of Scotland (2006)
brought prestige to the British film industry.
The turn of the new century saw a revival of the British horror film.
Led by Danny Boyle's acclaimed hit 28 Days Later (2002), other examples include:
Shaun of the Dead
Woody Allen became a convert to British filmmaking, choosing to shoot his 2005 film Match Point entirely in London, with a largely British cast and financing from BBC Films
A number of new British films achieved critical and commercial recognition:
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Film.
British studios such as Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden remained successful in hosting major foreign productions such as
V for Vendetta
The Mummy Returns
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Amount of money spent on making films in the UK during 2006
The film industry remains an important earner for the British economy.
The British film industry and Hollywood
Films with a British dimension have had enormous worldwide commercial success.
The top seven highest-grossing films worldwide of all time have some British historical, cultural or creative dimensions: Titanic ,
Two episodes of The Lord of the Rings ,
Two Pirates of the Caribbean
Two Harry Potter movies.
Yet these are mostly American films, only the Harry Potters are classified as British, and even these had US finance, so virtually all the most successful British-flavoured movies are American-made and the profits go to the US.
The reasons for this have been put down to British film-makers shying away from commercialism, and an unwillingness to learn or to play by the winning Hollywood formulas for successful commercial films.
The basic fact is that the British cinema market is too small for the British film industry to successfully produce Hollywood-style blockbusters over a sustained period
UK Film Industry Hollywood
The British film industry consequently has a complex and divided attitude to Hollywood.
On the one hand Hollywood provides work to British directors, actors, writers, production staff and studios and enables British history and stories to be made as films.
On the other hand, the loss of control and profits, and the market requirements of the US distributors, are often seen to endanger and distort British film culture.
Representations of Britain
Think of 2 contrasting British films you’ve seen e.g. This is England / Notting Hill