2020 was unquestionably a tough year for theatrical distributors and exhibitors. The Covid pandemic forced major studios like Disney and Paramount to significantly delay (by over a year from their originally slated release dates) tent pole film releases like Marvel's "Black Widow" and the Tom Cruise sequel, "Top Gun Maverick". In early December 2020, Warner Bros. announced its decision to release all of its 2021 movies on its streaming service "HBO Max". Coupled with worldwide cinema closures, including the threat of permanent shuttering of screens owned by major chains such as Cineworld in the UK and AMC and Cinemark in the US, analysts were understandably nervous about the future of the film industry.
However, despite three UK lockdowns in 2020 and severe restrictions on business activities, latest figures published by the British Film Industry show that spend on UK film and television production fell by only 21% in 2020 from a record year in 2019 (ending up still in excess of £2.84 billion despite the pandemic), with encouraging signs of a strong recovery in Q4 of 2020 where £1.19 billion was spent on film and high-end TV production, the second highest three-month spend on record.
Ben Roberts, the BFI's Chief Executive, partially attributed the recovery in the UK production sector to the speed and efficiency with which key industry stakeholders were able to pull together and agree guidelines and protocols for Covid safe production to restart. This is an area familiar to the Bristows employment team who recently advised a major studio on recommencing their UK productions in a Covid -secure manner.
U.K. Film, High-End TV Production Spend Exceeds $3.9 Billion in Pandemic Year, Down 21% on 2019 Levels