How the Hollywood Strikes Hit U.K. Film, TV Production Spend in 2023

The film and TV production boom in the U.K. came to a grinding halt in 2023 amid the Hollywood writers and actors strikes.

According to the British Film Institute, the total spend on film and high-end TV production last year reached £4.23 billion ($5.37 billion) from 394 productions, down 35 percent from £6.27 billion ($7.72 billion) in 2022 as previously reported.

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U.K. production spend is counted in the statistics for the year in which principal photography starts, which means shoots started in 2023 but then paused because of the strikes are fully attributed to 2023.
Or as the BFI noted: “If a production starts but then pauses, the total spend for the production is incorporated into the period’s spend data at that point, even if production restarts and concludes much later.”

Despite the drop in spend in 2023 following two years of records, the BFI highlighted that “this is the fourth-highest combined film and high-end TV spend reported for a year” and “almost level with 2019 pre-COVID production spend.”

It explained that “as a consequence of the strikes many film and high-end TV productions were paused or start dates were postponed which has impacted U.K. production spend … over the second, third and fourth quarters.” But it added: “In a year in which film and high-end TV production was impacted globally by the Hollywood strikes, the U.K.’s production continued to generate billions to the U.K. economy.”

High-end TV had led the growth charge in the past before film recorded a bigger jump in 2022 with 27 percent thanks to the likes of BarbieKraven the Hunter and Meg 2: The Trench.

In 2023, TV production spend fell more sharply than film spend, but it continued to contribute the lion’s share at 68 percent to feature film’s 32 percent.

During 2023, 207 feature films started shooting in the U.K., 13 fewer than in 2022, according to the BFI. “The total U.K. production spend for the total number of film starts was £1.36 billion, 31 percent lower than the £1.97 billion reported at the end of 2022,” which was subsequently updated to £2.22 billion across 326 projects, it said.

The strikes also affected Hollywood’s presence in the U.K. production sector last year. “There were 11 U.S. studio films that started production in 2023, with a U.K. spend of £703 million ($890 million), both of which are the lowest since such analysis started in 2016,” the BFI report highlighted. Meanwhile, the 196 non-U.S. studio films contributed a U.K. spend of £653 million ($826 million), the third-highest figure on record.

Among the film productions started in the U.K. in 2023 are the likes of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice 2, Gil Kenan’s Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, Kelly Marcel’s Venom 3, Shawn Levy’s Deadpool 3, Heads of State, directed by Ilya Nashuller and starring Idris Elba, John Cena, and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, John Crowley’s We Live in Time with Florence Pugh and Andrew Garfield, Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Amy Winehouse biopic Back to Black, and Dougal Wilson’s Paddington in Peru.

In comparison, the U.K. recorded 187 high-end TV productions that began principal photography in 2023 with a total spend of £2.87 billion ($3.64 billion), down 33 percent from the record-breaking £4.30 billion from 195 projects reported in 2022, which was subsequently updated to £4.85 billion across 226 projects.

However, the 2023 spend represents an increase over 2019’s pre-pandemic spend of £2.29 billion, which was later revised to £2.47 billion.

Among the shows that filmed last year were the likes of the second seasons of HBO’s House of the Dragon and AppleTV+ series Silo, as well as the latest season of BBC hit Doctor Who.

“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 U.K. was disrupted by strikes in 2024, our industry continues to contribute billions to the U.K. economy and support a huge range of jobs,” said BFI CEO Ben Roberts. “At the same time, audiences showed up in record numbers for must-see movies including BarbieOppenheimer and Wonka all of which exemplify the talent and artistry of so many U.K. creatives.”

He also highlighted: “Despite notable recent successes such as The Great EscaperRye LaneScrapperThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Polite Society, we cannot ignore that the statistics also highlight concerns for lower-budget U.K. films, increasingly challenged in securing finance and visibility. Our work and commitment in this area continues.”

In terms of box office, the BFI reported positive trends for last year. Total admissions for 2023 reached 123.6 million, an increase of 5.5 percent, “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 percent (176 million admissions),” it wrote.

Box office revenue in the U.K. and Ireland in 2023 totaled £985.8 million ($1.25 billion) across 822 films, up 4 percent from £945 million earned by 834 releases in 2022, but 24 percent behind 2019’s total box office.

“The highest-grossing release of 2023 was Barbie with £95.6 million ($120.8 million), representing 10 percent of the year’s total box office and outstripping 2022’s top-grossing film Top Gun: Maverick (83.7 million),” the BFI said. “Barbie’s same-day release partner Oppenheimer is the second-biggest film of the year with £58.9 million ($74.4 million) and is currently still on release.”

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