Insights BFI publishes official 2021 statistics showing record £5.64 billion film and high-end TV production spend in the UK


The latest official figures published by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit show further growth in the economic recovery of UK film and high-end TV (HETV) production in the wake of the pandemic, with record levels of spend contributed to the economy. The combined spend by film and HETV production during 2021 reached £5.64 billion, the highest ever reported and £1.27 billion higher than for the pre-pandemic year 2019.

April to June was the busiest part of the production year with £2.29 billion of film and HETV production spend, the highest three-month period for film and HETV spend on record, outstripping £1.54 billion generated from July to September 2019.

Inward investment and co-production films and HETV shows delivered £4.77 billion, or 84% of the production spend. HETV shows accounted for £3.44 billion, or 72% of the combined total spend; feature films contributed £1.33 billion, or 28% of the spend. However, inward investment film spend of £1.27 billion was 4% down on 2020. The spend in relation to films that started production in 2020 and continued into 2021 is accounted for in the 2020 statistics.

The 2021 production statistics also reveal the increasing investment made by streaming platforms in single long-form productions. In 2021, there were 36 single domestic UK and inward investment productions which contributed £737 million to the HETV spend of £4.09 billion. These productions include Pinocchio, Matilda: The Musical, Persuasion and Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

As for UK cinemas, total admissions for 2021 reached 74 million, an increase of 68% on 2020. The year presented two very different half years of business for UK cinemas. The first four months was marked by cinemas being closed and reopening in early May. October saw the release of No Time To Die and 16.4 million admissions, the third highest October on record. The trajectory of recovery saw admissions reach 38.8 million in the final quarter of the year. The total box office generated by all films on release in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in 2021 was £602 million, a 144% increase on the £247 million in 2020.

The Bond film No Time To Die was the highest grossing film of the year at £96.6 million. The top 20 films of the year collectively grossed £441 million, accounting for 73% of the total box office. The top 20 UK qualifying film releases grossed £234 million, and the top 20 qualifying independent films releases grossed £26.8 million. The top grossing UK independent film was The French Dispatch, which undertook some of its production work in the UK. To read the BFI’s press release in full and for a link to the full statistics reports, click here.