ⓘ Cinema of the United Kingdom


ⓘ Cinema of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has had a significant film industry for over a century. While film production reached an all-time high in 1936, the "golden age" of British cinema is usually thought to have occurred in the 1940s, during which the directors David Lean, Michael Powell, and Carol Reed produced their most critically acclaimed works. Many British actors have accrued critical success and worldwide recognition, such as Maggie Smith, Roger Moore, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Gary Oldman, Emma Thompson, and Kate Winslet. Some of the films with the largest ever box office returns have been made in the United Kingdom, including the third and fourth highest-grossing film franchises.

The identity of the British film industry, particularly as it relates to Hollywood, has often been the subject of debate. Its history has often been affected by attempts to compete with the American industry. The career of the producer Alexander Korda was marked by this objective, the Rank Organisation attempted to do so in the 1940s, and Goldcrest in the 1980s. Numerous British-born directors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Ridley Scott, and performers, such as Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant, have achieved success primarily through their work in the United States.

In 2009, British films grossed around $2 billion worldwide and achieved a market share of around 7% globally and 17% in the United Kingdom. UK box-office takings totalled £1.1 billion in 2012, with 172.5 million admissions.

The British Film Institute has produced a poll ranking what they consider to be the 100 greatest British films of all time, the BFI Top 100 British films. The annual BAFTA awards hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts are considered to be the British equivalent of the Academy Awards.


1.1. History Origins and silent films

The worlds first moving picture was shot in Leeds by Louis Le Prince in 1888 and the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film were made in Hyde Park, London in 1889 by British inventor William Friese Greene, who patented the process in 1890.

The first people to build and run a working 35 mm camera in Britain were Robert W. Paul and Birt Acres. They made the first British film Incident at Clovelly Cottage in February 1895, shortly before falling out over the cameras patent. Soon several British film companies had opened to meet the demand for new films, such as Mitchell and Kenyon in Blackburn.

Although the earliest British films were of everyday events, the early 20th century saw the appearance of narrative shorts, mainly comedies and melodramas. The early films were often melodramatic in tone, and there was a distinct preference for story lines already known to the audience, in particular, adaptations of Shakespeare plays and Dickens novels.

The Lumiere brothers first brought their show to London in 1896. In 1898 American producer Charles Urban expanded the London-based Warwick Trading Company to produce British films, mostly documentary and news.

In 1898 Gaumont-British Picture Corp. was founded as a subsidiary of the French Gaumont Film Company, constructing Lime Grove Studios in West London in 1915 in the first building built in Britain solely for film production. Also in 1898 Hepworth Studios was founded in Lambeth, South London by Cecil Hepworth, the Bamforths began producing films in Yorkshire, and William Haggar began producing films in Wales.

Directed by Walter R. Booth, Scrooge, or, Marleys Ghost 1901 is the earliest known film adaptation of Charles Dickenss novella A Christmas Carol. Booth’s The Hand of the Artist 1906 has been described as the first British animated film.

In 1902 Ealing Studios was founded by Will Barker, becoming the oldest continuously-operating film studio in the world.

In 1902 the earliest colour film in the world was made; like other films made at the time, it is of everyday events. In 2012 it was found by the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford after lying forgotten in an old tin for 110 years. The previous title for earliest colour film, using Urbans inferior Kinemacolor process, was thought to date from 1909. The re-discovered films were made by pioneer Edward Raymond Turner from London who patented his process on 22 March 1899.

In 1903 Urban formed the Charles Urban Trading Company, which produced early colour films using his patented Kinemacolor process. This was later challenged in court by Greene, causing the company to go out of business in 1915.

In 1903, Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow directed Alice in Wonderland, the first film adaptation of Lewis Carrolls childrens book Alices Adventures in Wonderland.

In 1903 Frank Mottershaw of Sheffield produced the film A Daring Daylight Robbery, which launched the chase genre.

In 1911 the Ideal Film Company was founded in Soho, London, distributing almost 400 films by 1934, and producing 80.

In 1913 stage director Maurice Elvey began directing British films, becoming Britains most prolific film director, with almost 200 by 1957.

In 1914 Elstree Studios was founded, and acquired in 1928 by German-born Ludwig Blattner, who invented a magnetic steel tape recording system that was adopted by the BBC in 1930.

In 1920 Gaumont opened Islington Studios, where Alfred Hitchcock got his start, selling out to Gainsborough Pictures in 1927. Also in 1920 Cricklewood Studios was founded by Sir Oswald Stoll, becoming Britains largest film studio, known for Fu Manchu and Sherlock Holmes film series.

In 1920 the short-lived company Minerva Films was founded in London by the actor Leslie Howard also producer and director and his friend and story editor Adrian Brunel. Some of their early films include four written by A. A. Milne including The Bump, starring C. Aubrey Smith; Twice Two ; Five Pound Reward ; and Bookworms.

By the mid-1920s the British film industry was losing out to heavy competition from the United States, which was helped by its much larger home market – in 1914 25% of films shown in the UK were British, but by 1926 this had fallen to 5%. The Slump of 1924 caused many British film studios to close, resulting in the passage of the Cinematograph Films Act 1927 to boost local production, requiring that cinemas show a certain percentage of British films. The act was technically a success, with audiences for British films becoming larger than the quota required, but it had the effect of creating a market for poor quality, low cost films, made to satisfy the quota. The "quota quickies", as they became known, are often blamed by historians for holding back the development of the industry. However, some British film makers, such as Michael Powell, learnt their craft making such films. The act was modified with the Cinematograph Films Act 1938 assisted the British film industry by specifying only films made by and shot in Great Britain would be included in the quota, an act that severely reduced Canadian and Australian film production.

Ironically, the biggest star of the silent era, English comedian Charlie Chaplin, was Hollywood-based.


1.2. History The early sound period

Scottish solicitor John Maxwell founded British International Pictures BIP in 1927. Based at the former British National Studios in Elstree, the facilities original owners, including producer-director Herbert Wilcox, had run into financial difficulties. One of the companys early films, Alfred Hitchcocks Blackmail 1929, is often regarded as the first British sound feature. It was a part-talkie with a synchronized score and sound effects. Earlier in 1929, the first all-talking British feature, The Clue of the New Pin was released. It was based on a novel by Edgar Wallace, starring Donald Calthrop, Benita Home and Fred Raines, which was made by British Lion at their Beaconsfield Studios. John Maxwells BIP became the Associated British Picture Corporation ABPC in 1933. ABPCs studios in Elstree came to be known as the "porridge factory", according to Lou Alexander, "for reasons more likely to do with the quantity of films that the company turned out, than their quality". Elstree strictly speaking almost all the studios were in neighboring Borehamwood became the center of the British film industry, with six film complexes over the years all in close proximity to each other.

With the advent of sound films, many foreign actors were in less demand, with English received pronunciation commonly used; for example, the voice of Czech actress Anny Ondra in Blackmail was substituted by an off-camera Joan Barry during Ondras scenes.

Starting with John Griersons Drifters also 1929, the period saw the emergence of the school of realist Documentary Film Movement, from 1933 associated with the GPO Film Unit. It was Grierson who coined the term "documentary" to describe a non-fiction film, and he produced the movements most celebrated early films, Night Mail 1936, written and directed by Basil Wright and Harry Watt, and incorporating the poem by W. H. Auden towards the end of the short.

Music halls also proved influential in comedy films of this period, and a number of popular personalities emerged, including George Formby, Gracie Fields, Jessie Matthews and Will Hay. These stars often made several films a year, and their productions remained important for morale purposes during World War II.

Many of the British films with larger budgets during the 1930s were produced by London Films, founded by Hungarian emigre Alexander Korda. The success of The Private Life of Henry VIII 1933, made at British and Dominion in Elstree, persuaded United Artists and The Prudential to invest in Kordas Denham Film Studios, which opened in May 1936, but both investors suffered losses as a result. Kordas films before the war included Things to Come, Rembrandt both 1936 and Knight Without Armour 1937, as well as the early Technicolour films The Drum 1938 and The Four Feathers 1939. These had followed closely on from Wings of the Morning 1937, the UKs first three-strip Technicolour feature film, made by the local offshoot of 20th Century Fox. Although some of Kordas films indulged in "unrelenting pro-Empire flag waving", those featuring Sabu turned him into "a huge international star"; "for many years" he had the highest profile of any actor of Indian origin. Paul Robeson was also cast in leading roles when "there were hardly any opportunities" for African Americans "to play challenging roles" in their own countrys productions.

Rising expenditure and over-optimistic expectations of expansion into the American market caused a financial crisis in 1937, after an all-time high of 192 films were released in 1936. Of the 640 British production companies registered between 1925 and 1936, only 20 were still active in 1937. Moreover, the 1927 Films Act was up for renewal. The replacement Cinematograph Films Act 1938 provided incentives, via a "quality test", for UK companies to make fewer films, but of higher quality, and to eliminate the "quota quickies". Influenced by world politics, it encouraged American investment and imports. One result was the creation of MGM-British, an English subsidiary of the largest American studio, which produced four films before the war, including Goodbye, Mr. Chips 1939.

The new venture was initially based at Denham Studios. Korda himself lost control of the facility in 1939 to the Rank Organisation, whose own Pinewood Studios had opened at the end of September 1936. Circumstances forced Kordas The Thief of Bagdad 1940, a spectacular fantasy film, to be completed in California, where Korda continued his film career during the war.

By now contracted to Gaumont British, Alfred Hitchcock had settled on the thriller genre by the mid-1930s with The Man Who Knew Too Much 1934, The 39 Steps 1935 and The Lady Vanishes 1938. Lauded in Britain where he was dubbed "Alfred the Great" by Picturegoer magazine, Hitchcocks reputation was beginning to develop overseas, with a The New York Times feature writer asserting; "Three unique and valuable institutions the British have that we in America have not. Magna Carta, the Tower Bridge and Alfred Hitchcock, the greatest director of screen melodramas in the world." Hitchcock was then signed up to a seven-year contract by Selznick and moved to Hollywood.


1.3. History Second World War

Humphrey Jennings began his career as a documentary film maker just before the war, in some cases working in collaboration with co-directors. London Can Take It with Harry Wat, 1940 detailed the blitz while Listen to Britain with Stewart McAllister, 1942 looked at the home front. The Crown Film Unit, part of the Ministry of Information took over the responsibilities of the GPO Film Unit in 1940. Paul Rotha and Alberto Cavalcanti were colleagues of Jennings. British films began to make use of documentary techniques; Cavalcanti joined Ealing for Went the Day Well? 1942,

Many other films helped to shape the popular image of the nation at war. Among the best known of these films are In Which We Serve 1942, We Dive at Dawn 1943, Millions Like Us 1943 and The Way Ahead 1944. The war years also saw the emergence of The Archers partnership between director Michael Powell and the Hungarian-born writer-producer Emeric Pressburger with films such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp 1943 and A Canterbury Tale 1944.

Two Cities Films, an independent production company releasing their films through a Rank subsidiary, also made some important films, including the Noel Coward and David Lean collaborations This Happy Breed 1944 and Blithe Spirit 1945 as well as Laurence Oliviers Henry V 1944. By this time, Gainsborough Studios were releasing their series of critically derided but immensely popular period melodramas, including The Man in Grey 1943 and The Wicked Lady 1945. New stars, such as Margaret Lockwood and James Mason, emerged in the Gainsborough films.


1.4. History Post-war cinema

Towards the end of the 1940s, the Rank Organisation, founded in 1937 by J. Arthur Rank, became the dominant force behind British film-making, having acquired a number of British studios and the Gaumont chain in 1941 to add to its Odeon Cinemas. Ranks serious financial crisis in 1949, a substantial loss and debt, resulted in the contraction of its film production. In practice, Rank maintained an industry duopoly with ABPC later absorbed by EMI for many years.

For the moment, the industry hit new heights of creativity in the immediate post-war years. Among the most significant films produced during this period were David Leans Brief Encounter 1945 and his Dickens adaptations Great Expectations 1946 and Oliver Twist 1948, Carol Reeds thrillers Odd Man Out 1947 and The Third Man 1949, and Powell and Pressburgers A Matter of Life and Death 1946, Black Narcissus 1947 and The Red Shoes 1948, the most commercially successful film of its year in the United States. Laurence Oliviers Hamlet also 1948, was the first non-American film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Ealing Studios financially backed by Rank began to produce their most celebrated comedies, with three of the best remembered films, Whisky Galore 1948, Kind Hearts and Coronets and Passport to Pimlico both 1949, being on release almost simultaneously. Their portmanteau horror film Dead of Night 1945 is also particularly highly regarded.

Under the Import Duties Act 1932, HM Treasury levied a 75 per cent tariff on all film imports on 6 August 1947 which became known as Dalton Duty after Hugh Dalton then the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The tax came into effect on 8 August, applying to all imported films, of which the overwhelming majority came from the United States; American film studio revenues from the UK had been in excess of US$68 million in 1946. The following day, 9 August, the Motion Picture Association of America announced that no further films would be supplied to British cinemas until further notice. The Dalton Duty was ended on 3 May 1948 with the American studios again exported films to the UK though the Marshall Plan prohibited US film companies from taking foreign exchange out of the nations their films played in.

The Eady Levy, named after Sir Wilfred Eady was a tax on box office receipts in the United Kingdom in order to support the British Film industry. It was established in 1950 coming into effect in 1957. A direct governmental payment to British-based producers would have qualified as a subsidy under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and would have led to objections from American film producers. An indirect levy did not qualify as a subsidy, and so was a suitable way of providing additional funding for the UK film industry whilst avoiding criticism from abroad.

During the 1950s, the British industry began to concentrate on popular comedies and World War II dramas aimed more squarely at the domestic audience. The war films were often based on true stories and made in a similar low-key style to their wartime predecessors. They helped to make stars of actors like John Mills, Jack Hawkins and Kenneth More. Some of the most successful included The Cruel Sea 1953, The Dam Busters 1954, The Colditz Story 1955 and Reach for the Sky 1956.

The Rank Organisation produced some comedy successes, such as Genevieve 1953. The writer/director/producer team of twin brothers John and Roy Boulting also produced a series of successful satires on British life and institutions, beginning with Privates Progress 1956, and continuing with among others Brothers in Law 1957, Carlton-Browne of the F.O. 1958, and Im All Right Jack 1959.

Popular comedy series included the "Doctor" series, beginning with Doctor in the House 1954. The series originally starred Dirk Bogarde, probably the British industrys most popular star of the 1950s, though later films had Michael Craig and Leslie Phillips in leading roles. The Carry On series began in 1958 with regular instalments appearing for the next twenty years. The Italian director-producer Mario Zampi also made a number of successful black comedies, including Laughter in Paradise 1951, The Naked Truth 1957 and Too Many Crooks 1958. Ealing Studios had continued its run of successful comedies, including The Lavender Hill Mob 1951 and The Ladykillers 1955, but the company ceased production in 1958, after the studios had already been bought by the BBC.

Less restrictive censorship towards the end of the 1950s encouraged film producer Hammer Films to embark on their series of commercially successful horror films. Beginning with adaptations of Nigel Kneales BBC science fiction serials The Quatermass Experiment 1955 and Quatermass II 1957, Hammer quickly graduated to The Curse of Frankenstein 1957 and Dracula 1958, both deceptively lavish and the first gothic horror films in colour. The studio turned out numerous sequels and variants, with English actors Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee being the most regular leads. Peeping Tom 1960, a now highly regarded thriller, with horror elements, set in the contemporary period, was badly received by the critics at the time, and effectively finished the career of Michael Powell, its director.


1.5. History Social realism

The British New Wave film makers attempted to produce social realist films see also kitchen sink realism attempted in commercial feature films released between around 1959 and 1963 to convey narratives about a wider spectrum of people in Britain than the countrys earlier films had done. These individuals, principally Karel Reisz, Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson, were also involved in the short lived Oxford film journal Sequence and the "Free Cinema" documentary film movement. The 1956 statement of Free Cinema, the name was coined by Anderson, asserted: "No film can be too personal. The image speaks. Sounds amplifies and comments. Size is irrelevant. Perfection is not an aim. An attitude means a style. A style means an attitude." Anderson, in particular, was dismissive of the commercial film industry. Their documentary films included Andersons Every Day Except Christmas, among several sponsored by Ford of Britain, and Richardsons Momma Dont Allow. Another member of this group, John Schlesinger, made documentaries for the BBCs Monitor arts series.

Together with future James Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman, dramatist John Osborne and Tony Richardson established the company Woodfall Films to produce their early feature films. These included adaptations of Richardsons stage productions of Osbornes Look Back in Anger 1959, with Richard Burton, and The Entertainer 1960 with Laurence Olivier, both from Osbornes own screenplays. Such films as Reiszs Saturday Night and Sunday Morning also 1960, Richardsons A Taste of Honey 1961, Schlesingers A Kind of Loving 1962 and Billy Liar 1963, and Andersons This Sporting Life 1963 are often associated with a new openness about working-class life or previously taboo issues.

The team of Basil Dearden and Michael Relph, from an earlier generation, "probe eventually collapsed."

Tax incentives allowed American producers to increasingly invest in UK-based film production throughout the 1990s, including films such as Interview with the Vampire 1994, Mission: Impossible 1996, Saving Private Ryan 1998, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999 and The Mummy 1999. Miramax also distributed Neil Jordans acclaimed thriller The Crying Game 1992, which was generally ignored on its initial release in the UK, but was a considerable success in the United States. The same company also enjoyed some success releasing the BBC period drama Enchanted April 1992 and The Wings of the Dove 1997.

Among the more successful British films were the Merchant Ivory productions Howards End 1992 and The Remains of the Day 1993, Richard Attenboroughs Shadowlands 1993, and Kenneth Branaghs Shakespeare adaptations. The Madness of King George 1994 proved there was still a market for British costume dramas, and other period films followed, including Sense and Sensibility 1995, Restoration 1995, Emma 1996, Mrs. Brown 1997, Basil 1998, Shakespeare in Love 1998 and Topsy-Turvy 1999.

After a six-year hiatus for legal reasons the James Bond films returned to production with the 17th Bond film, GoldenEye. With their traditional home Pinewood Studios fully booked, a new studio was created for the film in a former Rolls-Royce aero-engine factory at Leavesden in Hertfordshire.

Mike Leigh emerged as a significant figure in British cinema in the 1990s, with a series of films financed by Channel 4 about working and middle class life in modern England, including Life Is Sweet 1991, Naked 1993 and his biggest hit Secrets & Lies 1996, which won the Palme dOr at Cannes.

Other new talents to emerge during the decade included the writer-director-producer team of John Hodge, Danny Boyle and Andrew Macdonald responsible for Shallow Grave 1994 and Trainspotting 1996. The latter film generated interested in other "regional" productions, including the Scottish films Small Faces 1996, Ratcatcher 1999 and My Name Is Joe 1998.


1.6. History 2000 to 2010

The first decade of the 21st century was a relatively successful one for the British film industry. Many British films found a wide international audience due to funding from BBC Films, Film 4 and the UK Film Council, and some independent production companies, such as Working Title, secured financing and distribution deals with major American studios. Working Title scored three major international successes, all starring Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, with the romantic comedies Bridget Joness Diary 2001, which grossed $254 million worldwide; the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which earned $228 million; and Richard Curtiss directorial debut Love Actually 2003, which grossed $239 million. Most successful of all, Phyllida Lloyds Mamma Mia! 2008, which grossed $601 million.

The new decade saw a major new film series in the Harry Potter films, beginning with Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone in 2001. David Heymans company Heyday Films has produced seven sequels, with the final title released in two parts – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 in 2010 and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in 2011. All were filmed at Leavesden Studios in England.

Aardman Animations Nick Park, the creator of Wallace and Gromit and the Creature Comforts series, produced his first feature-length film, Chicken Run in 2000. Co-directed with Peter Lord, the film was a major success worldwide and one of the most successful British films of its year. Parks follow up, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was another worldwide hit: it grossed $56 million at the US box office and £32 million in the UK. It also won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

However it was usually through domestically funded features throughout the decade that British directors and films won awards at the top international film festivals. In 2003, Michael Winterbottom won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for In This World. In 2004, Mike Leigh directed Vera Drake, an account of a housewife who leads a double life as an abortionist in 1950s London. The film won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In 2006 Stephen Frears directed The Queen based on the events surrounding the death of Princess Diana, which won the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival and Academy Awards and the BAFTA for Best Film. In 2006, Ken Loach won the Palme dOr at the Cannes Film Festival with his account of the struggle for Irish Independence in The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Joe Wrights adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel Atonement was nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Film and won the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Film. Slumdog Millionaire was filmed entirely in Mumbai with a mostly Indian cast, though with a British director Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and star Dev Patel - the film was all-British financed via Film4 and Celador. It has received worldwide critical acclaim. It has won four Golden Globes, seven BAFTA Awards and eight Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Film. The Kings Speech, which tells the story of King George VIs attempts to overcome his speech impediment, was directed by Tom Hooper and filmed almost entirely in London. It received four Academy Awards in 2011.

The start of the 21st century saw Asian British cinema assert itself at the box office, starting with East Is East 1999 and continuing with Bend It Like Beckham 2002. Other notable British Asian films from this period include My Son the Fanatic 1997, Ae Fond Kiss. 2004, Mischief Night 2006, Yasmin 2004 and Four Lions 2010. Some argue it has brought more flexible attitudes towards casting Black and Asian British actors, with Robbie Gee and Naomie Harris take leading roles in Underworld and 28 Days Later respectively. The year 2005 saw the emergence of The British Urban Film Festival, a timely addition to the film festival calendar, which recognised the influence of Kidulthood on UK audiences and consequently began to showcase a growing profile of films in a genre previously not otherwise regularly seen in the capitals cinemas. Then in 2005 Kidulthood, a film centring on inner-city London youth had a limited release. This was successfully followed up with a sequel Adulthood 2008 that was written and directed by actor Noel Clarke. Several other films dealing with inner city issues and Black Britons were released in the 2000s such as Bullet Boy 2004, Life and Lyrics 2006 and Rollin with the Nines 2009.

Like the 1960s, this decade saw plenty of British films directed by imported talent. The American Woody Allen shot Match Point 2005 and three later films in London. The Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron helmed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 2004 and Children of Men 2006; New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion made Bright Star 2009, a film set in 19th century London; Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn made Bronson 2008, a biopic about the English criminal Michael Gordon Peterson; the Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo directed 28 Weeks Later 2007, a sequel to a British horror film; and two John le Carre adaptations were also directed by foreigners - The Constant Gardener by the Brazilian Fernando Meirelles and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by the Swedish Tomas Alfredson. The decade also saw English actor Daniel Craig became the new James Bond with Casino Royale, the 21st entry in the official Eon Productions series.

Despite increasing competition from film studios in Australia and Eastern Europe, British studios such as Pinewood, Shepperton and Leavesden remained successful in hosting major productions, including Finding Neverland, Closer, Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, United 93, The Phantom of the Opera, Sweeney Todd, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Robin Hood, X-Men: First Class, Hugo and War Horse.

In November 2010, Warner Bros. completed the acquisition of Leavesden Film Studios, becoming the first Hollywood studio since the 1940s to have a permanent base in the UK, and announced plans to invest £100 million in the site.

A study by the British Film Institute published in December 2013 found that of the 613 tracked British films released between 2003 and 2010 only 7% made a profit. Films with low budgets, those that cost below £500.000 to produce, were even less likely to gain a return on outlay. Of these films, only 3.1% went into the black. At the top end of budgets for the British industry, under a fifth of films that cost £10million went into profit.


1.7. History 2010 to present

On 26 July 2010 it was announced that the UK Film Council, which was the main body responsible for the development of promotion of British cinema during the 2000s, would be abolished, with many of the abolished bodys functions being taken over by the British Film Institute. Actors and professionals, including James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Pete Postlethwaite, Damian Lewis, Timothy Spall, Daniel Barber and Ian Holm, campaigned against the Councils abolition. The move also led American actor and director Clint Eastwood who had filmed Hereafter in London to write to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne in August 2010 to protest the decision to close the Council. Eastwood warned Osborne that the closure could result in fewer foreign production companies choosing to work in the UK. A grass-roots online campaign was launched and a petition established by supporters of the Council.

Countering this, a few professionals, including Michael Winner and Julian Fellowes, supported the Governments decision. A number of other organisations responded positively.

At the closure of the UK Film Council on 31 March 2011, The Guardian reported that "The UKFCs entire annual budget was a reported £3m, while the cost of closing it down and restructuring is estimated to have been almost four times that amount." One of the UKFCs last films, The Kings Speech, is estimated to have cost $15m to make and grossed $235m, besides winning several Academy Awards. UKFC invested $1.6m for a 34% share of net profits, a valuable stake that will pass to the British Film Institute.

In April 2011, The Peel Group acquired a controlling 71% interest in The Pinewood Studios Group the owner of Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios for £96 million. In June 2012, Warner opened the re-developed Leavesden studio for business. The most commercially successful British directors in recent years are Paul Greengrass, Mike Newell, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott and David Yates.

In January 2012, at Pinewood Studios to visit film-related businesses, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that his government had bold ambitions for the film industry: "Our role, and that of the BFI, should be to support the sector in becoming even more dynamic and entrepreneurial, helping UK producers to make commercially successful pictures that rival the quality and impact of the best international productions. Just as the British Film Commission has played a crucial role in attracting the biggest and best international studios to produce their films here, so we must incentivise UK producers to chase new markets both here and overseas."

The film industry remains an important earner for the British economy. According to a UK Film Council press release of 20 January 2011, £1.115 billion was spent on UK film production during 2010. A 2014 survey suggested that British-made films were generally more highly rated than Hollywood productions, especially when considering low-budget UK productions.


2. Art cinema

Although it had been funding British experimental films as early as 1952, the British Film Institutes foundation of a production board in 1964 - and a substantial increase in public funding from 1971 onwards - enabled it to become a dominant force in developing British art cinema in the 1970s and 80s: from the first of Bill Douglass Trilogy My Childhood 1972, and of Terence Davies Trilogy Childhood 1978, via Peter Greenaways earliest films including the surprising commercial success of The Draughtsmans Contract 1982) and Derek Jarmans championing of the New Queer Cinema. The first full-length feature produced under the BFIs new scheme was Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollos Winstanley 1975, while others included Moon Over the Alley 1975, Requiem for a Village 1975, the openly avant-garde Central Bazaar 1973, Pressure 1975 and A Private Enterprise 1974 – the last two being, respectively, the first British Black and Asian features.

The release of Derek Jarmans Jubilee 1978 marked the beginning of a successful period of UK art cinema, continuing into the 1980s with filmmakers like Sally Potter. Unlike the previous generation of British film makers who had broken into directing and production after careers in the theatre or on television, the Art Cinema Directors were mostly the products of Art Schools. Many of these filmmakers were championed in their early career by the London Film Makers Cooperative and their work was the subject of detailed theoretical analysis in the journal Screen Education. Peter Greenaway was an early pioneer of the use of computer generated imagery blended with filmed footage and was also one of the first directors to film entirely on high definition video for a cinema release.

With the launch of Channel 4 and its Film on Four commissioning strand, Art Cinema was promoted to a wider audience. However, the Channel had a sharp change in its commissioning policy in the early 1990s and Greenaway and others were forced to seek European co-production financing.


3. Film technology

In the 1970s and 1980s, British studios established a reputation for great special effects in films such as Superman 1978, Alien 1979, and Batman 1989. Some of this reputation was founded on the core of talent brought together for the filming of 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968 who subsequently worked together on series and feature films for Gerry Anderson. Thanks to the Bristol-based Aardman Animations, the UK is still recognised as a world leader in the use of stop-motion animation.

British special effects technicians and production designers are known for creating visual effects at a far lower cost than their counterparts in the US, as seen in Time Bandits 1981 and Brazil 1985. This reputation has continued through the 1990s and into the 21st century with films such as the James Bond series, Gladiator 2000 and the Harry Potter franchise.

From the 1990s to the present day, there has been a progressive movement from traditional film opticals to an integrated digital film environment, with special effects, cutting, colour grading, and other post-production tasks all sharing the same all-digital infrastructure. The London-based visual effects company Framestore, with Tim Webber the visual effects supervisor, have worked on some of the most technically and artistically challenging projects, including, The Dark Knight 2008 and Gravity 2013, with new techniques involved in Gravity realized by Webber and the Framestore team taking three years to complete.

The availability of high-speed internet has made the British film industry capable of working closely with U.S. studios as part of globally distributed productions. As of 2005, this trend is expected to continue with moves towards currently experimental digital distribution and projection as mainstream technologies. The British film This is Not a Love Song 2003 was the first to be streamed live on the Internet at the same time as its cinema premiere.