Category Archives: Film Policy

Research on the British film industry

This week a collection of works on the British film industry from an economic perspective. It is easy to find articles by economists on the Hollywood film industry, but there appears to much less available if you want to look at the film industry in the UK. What analysis of filmmaking in the UK there is rarely makes it into film studies publications, and so hopefully this list will get people to cross over and to take ideas and data from one arena into the other. It is worth taking a moment to reflect for a moment that so much research is focused on the analysis of film production, which does not make much sense in a distribution-led industry. This is also a problem for film policy in the UK, which focuses almost exclusively on production measures (tax incentives, subsidies for filmmakers) without addressing the issue of distribution. But then for policy makers, like film scholars, production is sexy and distribution isn’t.

As ever, the version available on line may be a pre-print of a finished article so make sure you check before citing anything.

First, Robin MacPherson at Napier University has recently made his latest research available here. (This can also apparently be accessed through Napier’s research respository, but it didn’t work when I tried it).

MacPherson R 2010 Is bigger better? Film success in small countries – the case of Scotland, Ireland and Denmark.


Small European countries with low levels of film production might be expected to suffer from diseconomies of scale and other structural disadvantages that would tend to produce a lower ratio of ‘hits’ to ‘flops’ than larger countries. Analysis of Scottish, Irish and Danish data suggests that, despite significantly different levels of production, the distribution of ‘hits’ is in fact very similar and consistent with the Paretian distribution of audiences and revenues in major markets such as the United States and others. The skewed distribution of cinema audiences in Scotland, Ireland and Denmark appears to confirm the ‘scale independent’ importance of a small number of unpredictable highperforming ‘outliers’ in determining total and average audience/revenues. Analysis of overall production levels and aggregate audience share for domestic films in several small countries reveals a correlation that emerges once production exceeds a critical level. A predictive model of how revenues are distributed as production levels increase is tested. The implications of a consistent pattern of film success for film funding policy in small countries are discussed and avenues for further research suggested.

Blair H 2003 Winning and losing in flexible labour markets: the formation and operation of networks of interdependence in the UK film industry, Sociology 37 (4): 677-694.

Elliot C and Simmons R 2008 Determinants of UK box office success: the impact of quality signals, Review of Industrial Organisation, 33 (2): 93-111.

This paper analyses the roles of various quality signals in the demand for cinema attendance in the United Kingdom. Estimation of a three-stage least squares model with data for 527 films released in the United Kingdom shows that the impacts of advertising and critical reviews on box office revenues vary both in channels and magnitudes of impact. Our model treats total advertising as endogenous, alongside the number of opening screens and total box office revenues, while critical reviews are considered exogenous. Our results show that total advertising affects total box office revenue while responding endogenously to critical reviews.

Gornostaeva G 2008 The film and television industry in London’s suburbs: lifestyle of the rich or losers’ retreat?, Creative Industries Journal 1 (1): 47-71.

Nachum L and Keeble D 1999 A Marshallian approach to the eclectic paradigm of foreign investment: the clustering of film TNCS in central London, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 119. (This seems to take a long time to download, and being impatient I right-clicked and and downloaded the file using ‘Save link as …’ This may also be the case for other papers from the ESRC centre at Cambridge).

Nachum L and Keeble D 2000 Foreign and indigenous firms in the media cluster of central London, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 154.

Pratt AC 2007 ‘Imagination can be a damned curse in this country:’ material geographies of filmmaking and the rural, in R Fish (ed.) Cinematic Countrysides. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 127-46.

Pratten S and Deakin S 1999 Competitiveness policy and economic organisation: the case of the British film industry, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 127.

Tirtaine C 2007 Évolution des relations entre État et cinéma au Royaume-Uni (1979-2005), Revue LISA/LISA e-journal 5 (1): (NB: this article is in French).

A government can adopt two different stances regarding its domestic film industry. It may choose to support and protect it because of its cultural remit – or it may treat it like any other industry and adopt a laissez-faire attitude and let market forces determine its fate. The latter stance was adopted by the Thatcher government, which abolished the support system and protectionist measures from which British film had benefited for decades and granted it only few subsidies. The government severed almost all the existing links between the film industry and the State. These non-interventionist policies undoubtedly contributed to the dramatic drop in the number of British films produced and the chronic difficulties which the film industry experienced in the 1980s. The relationships between the government and the film industry have since changed considerably. The creation of the Film Council and the existence of a Film Minister within the government have definitely contributed to reinstating a dialogue between the industry and the government. State support in favour of film has increased dramatically in the past decade, with the introduction of tax incentives and new subsidies, which mostly derive from National Lottery revenues. The State’s investment in film is thus mainly indirect and it is clear that the government, by supporting British cinema, has in mind not only its contribution to the country’s culture but also to its economy. By changing the legal definition of a British film in order to entice into the UK foreign investors who want to benefit from attractive tax incentives, the government triggered an increase in the number of co-productions and foreign films shot in the UK – at the risk of undermining the identity of British cinema, and thus, the country’s culture.

Finally, to turn to Hollywood W.D. Walls’ list of publications of his research, much of it co-authoured with Andy De Vany and most of it freely available, can be accessed here, and is an example of an economic approach to distribution that is sadly lacking when we turn to British cinema.

The geographies of cinema

This week some interesting papers on the subject of the geography of cinema, which covers a wide range of topic from the political economy of film industries to the representation of space in cinema. As ever, this list is not comprehensive, but has a selection of interesting papers I have come across.

For each paper I give the reference of the published version, but the version linked to may be a pre-print, a web version, working paper, or a technical report and so page references, formatting, etc., may be different and this should be kept in mind if you want to quote from this research. Most of the files are pdfs.

You can access my papers on British film and geography here (on Manchester in 24 Hour Party People) and here (on London in Notting Hill and South West 9). Other references are given on the page about me.

Alanen A 2008 The structure of Finnish film production at the enterprise level, Tieto & Trendit Journal of Statistics Finland 3/2008.

Alanen A 2008 In Hollywood or in the backwood?, Tieto & Trendit Journal of Statistics Finland 5/2008.

Arrowsmith C, Verhoeven D, and Davidson A (n.d.) A method for detecting geographical cinema circuits using Markov Chains.

Curti GH 2008 The ghost in the city and a landscape of life: a reading of difference in Shirow and Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, Environment and Planning D 28: 87-106.

Dell’agnese E 2005 The US–Mexico border in American movies: a political geography perspective, Geopolitics 10: 204-221.

Escher A 2006 The geography of cinema – a cinematic world, Erdkunde 60 (4): 307-314.

Eliashberg J, Elberse A, and Leendera MAAM (2006) The motion picture industry: critical issues in practice,current research, and new research directions, Marketing Science 25 (6): 638-661. [The link to this article appears to have been broken, and so it has been removed].

Falicov TL 2002 Film policy under MERCOSUR: the case of Uruguay, Canadian Journal of Communication 27 (1).

Gamir A and Manuel C 2007 Cinema and geography: geographic space, landscape and territory in the film industry, Boletin de la asociacion de geografos españoles 45: 407-410.

Lorenzen M 2008 Creativity at Work: On the Globalization of the Film Industry, Creative Encounters Working Papers 8.

Lukinbeal C 2002 Teaching historical geographies of American film production, Journal of Geography 101: 250-260.

Lukinbeal C 2004 The map that precedes the territory: an introduction to essays in cinematic geography, GeoJournal 59 (4): 247-251.

Lukinbeal C 2005 Cinematic landscapes, Journal of Cultural Geography 23 (1): 3-22.

Lukinbeal C 2006 Runaway Hollywood: Cold Mountain, Romania, Erkunde 60 (4): 337-345.

Lukinbeal C and Zimmermann S 2006 Film geography: a new subfield, Erkunde 60 (4): 315-326.

Mezias JM and Mezias SJ 2000 Resource partioning, the founding of specialist firms, and innovation: the American feature film industry, 1912-1929, Organization Science 11 (3): 306-322.

Mould O 2008 Moving images: world cities, connections and projects in Sydney’s TV production industry, Global Networks 8 (4): 474-495.

Richardson S 2005 Welcome to the cheap seats: cinemas, sex and landscape, Industrial Archaeology Review 27: 145-152.

Scott AJ 2002 A new map of Hollywood: the production and distribution of American motion pictures, Regional Studies 36 (9): 957-975.

Scott AJ (n.d.) A new map of Hollywood and the World.

Turok I 2003 Cities, clusters, and creative industries: the case of film and TV in Scotland, European Planning Studies 11 (5): 549-565.

Vang J and Chaminade C 2007 Global-local linkages, spillovers, and cultural clusters: theoretical and empirical insights from an exploratory study of Toronto’s film cluster, Industry and Innovation 14 (4): 401-420.

The global film industry in Poland, 2002 to 2007

The cinemas of the former Eastern bloc countries emerged from behind the iron curtain into a globalising film industry. This post looks at the example of feature film production in Poland that originates outside the country, and explores the range of global connections through incoming autonomous films and co-productions. The results show that while a significant number of these films have been produced in Poland, the range of the countries involved in these productions is limited and reflects the traditional dominance of the global film industry by Hollywood and the major European film industries.

The globalisation of the film industry

While the film industry has always been international, Lorenzen (2007, 2008) identifies the shift to a global film industry as the increasing interconnectedness among firms and the places in which they operate leading to greater integration in four areas: (1) filmmaking has moved beyond its traditional European/North American base to become a globally ubiquitous activity; (2) global consumption is replacing more localised forms of film experience for audiences; (3) production has become globalised as producers look for new creative partnerships and as Hollywood productions have been ‘offshored’ and ‘outsourced’ (Vang and Chaminade 2007) to production centres that offer competitive advantages in the form of reduced costs and/or tax incentives; and, (4) the global forms of organisation have emerged with in the shape of ‘media empires’ that are globally owned and globally active (e.g. Sony, Viacom, News Corporation).

One of the main arguments put forward for the globalisation of the film industry is the increase in co-productions, in which the development of a motion picture is funded by companies based in more than one nation, and where production may take place in more than one nation bring together a multinational cast and crew. Such production arrangements mean that no national identity can be assigned to a film as a cultural product, and, that as a consequence of this, film is a global medium in which limiting notions of nationhood are no longer relevant. The mobility of films which cross international borders (see Higson 2000)

One of the problems with discussing globalisation and the cinema is that analysts tend to focus primarily (if not exclusively) on questions of production. Viewed in the simple terms described above, the globalisation of the film industry is a relatively straightforward process that has seen the spread of film production around the world. However, since the 1940s the film industry has been distribution led, and it is distributors who act as the gatekeepers to film markets. Balio (1996: 27) quotes Harold L. Vogel:

Ownership of entertainment distribution capability is like ownership if a toll road or bridge. No matter how good or bad the software product (i.e., movie, record, book, magazine, TV show, or whatever) is, it must pass over or cross through a distribution pipeline in order to reach the consumer. And like any toll or road bridge that cannot be circumvented, the distributor is a local monopolist who can extract a relatively high fee for use of his facility.

This analogy can be extended from the local to the global, and following the merger of media companies to form vertically and horizontally integrated media empires that operate in markets across the world has led to the emergence of global monopolists who cannot be circumvented. The processes of globalisation that have emerged in the film industry have not fundamentally altered the governance of the film industry, which, Coe and Johns (2004) point out, remains concentrated in a limited number of global media empires that are based in a small, select group of cities comprising Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, and Tokyo. Even among this select group we can identify an imbalance between the dominance of the American cities and the second tier status of the others in the global film industry.

Poland and the global film industry

As a film industry that has had to develop in the context of globalisation following the demise of the centralised Soviet model, Poland is an instructive example of how the film industry has become globalised without fundamentally changing the nature of the film industry.

Polish film policy since 2005

Film policy in Poland was Cinematography Act of 2005, which created the Polish Film Institute and regulated the funding of film production. A principal objective of this act was to enable Poland to be more successful in attracting films to Poland as well as boosting domestic production, which had been slowly declining to 2004. Two key definitions were introduced: autonomous production – in which a production comes into Poland from outside and does not have a Polish counterpart; and, co-productions with a Polish partner. In both cases, producers are required to register as companies in Poland, and all production activity within Poland is subject to Polish law. While co-productions are typically viewed as undermining the national in a global film industry, it is also important to remember that they are promoted as part of national film policy by creating connections in order to bring investment into a country. Since 2007, Poland has also introduced regional production funds to develop production facilities at a more local level. Additionally, Poland is a member of the pan-European production schemes Eurimages and Media 2007, which also promote cross-border co-productions in the European Union. Like many countries, Poland has sought to place itself within the global film industry as a destination for productions. The schemes directed by the Polish Film Institute are intended to increase the level of production in the country by making funding available either through direct subsidies or indirect tax breaks. Although it is a requirement of a co-production agreement that the non-Polish partner cannot claim exclusive distribution rights, there has not been any attempt to address the nature of motion picture distribution. The Polish Film Institute reports an increase in production from 2006 and a part of this has been an increase in the number of co-productions, but this may be seen as largely a process of modernisation whereby policies that have been successful elsewhere have been adopted (Poland’s film policy is now very similar to that of the UK and many other European countries) and have had the impact of raising production levels relative to the recent past without fundamentally transforming Poland’s position in the global film industry.

Connecting Poland to the global film industry

Data was collected from the Internet Movie Database ( by searching for productions shot in Poland and that were either incoming productions with no local production partner (autonomous productions) or productions which did have such a partner (co-productions). Only feature-length fiction films are included in the sample. Where a film has connections to more than one country (e.g. there is more than one co-producing partner), then it counts once for each country, and so the total number of connections exceeds to total number of productions. A limitation of this data is that it is only able numerate the number of connections between industries, and is not able to give an estimate of the value of these connections by looking at the amount of production spend in Poland of each film.

Data was collected for a total of 52 films produced in Poland from 2002 to 2007 inclusive, of which 30 are co-productions or and 22 are autonomous films. The results are presented in Table 1 and Figure 1.

TABLE 1 Co-productions and autonomous productions to shoot in Poland, 2002-2007



FIGURE 1 Poland in the global film industry, 2002-2007

KEY: AT – Austria; AU – Australia; CA – Canada; CH – Switzerland; CZ – Czech Republic; DE – Germany; ES – Spain; FR – France; IL – Israel; IN – India; IT – Italy; LU – Luxembourg; NL – Netherlands; PL – Poland; RU – Russia; SK – Slovakia; SW – Sweden; UK – United Kingdom; US – United States

The films in the sample have between them a total 72 connections, with co-productions accounting for approximately 60% of these. Although these films connect the Polish film industry to those of nineteen other countries, the range of countries is limited. Fourteen are European countries, and only and Russia and Switzerland are not members of the European Union. These fourteen countries account for 52 connections in total, and of these 34 are from just three countries: France, the United Kingdom, and – most importantly – Germany. Beyond Europe three countries have only a single connection to Poland, while Canada has four and the United States has thirteen of the twenty non-European connections. Only the US and Germany have connections that reach into double figures, and only France and the UK have connections that also number more than five. With more than a quarter of the total, it is clear that Germany is Poland’s most significant co-producing partner and is also an important source of incoming productions. The global reach of film production is, then, somewhat limited to Poland’s immediate neighbours and North America. Although the Polish Film Institute has reported an upsurge in feature film production since 2005, Poland has not become a production hub in the global film industry. It has been a source of locations for films and for co-productions in the immediate area. Beyond the major film producing countries with which it is connected (Germany, the US, France, the UK), the connections tend to one-off events with no sustained relationship.

The results of this brief survey are nothing surprising. Poland finds itself like many countries competing to attract mobile productions in a global film industry and has adopted measures similar to those elsewhere (subsidies, tax breaks, regional production funds). Its relationship to other film industries is determined primarily by the continued domination of the US and (albeit on a smaller scale) if Western Europe. As production costs rise in Poland, or as new territories that are able to offer even cheaper production facilities whilst maintaining production standards, Poland’s number of connections will decrease as productions move elsewhere.

Overall, the global film industry is a lot less globalised than we are led to believe, and while filmmaking may now be a ‘globally ubiquitous activity’ the connections between productions in different parts of the world are essentially limited.


Balio, T. (1996) Adjusting to the new global economy: Hollywood in the 1990s, in A. Moran (ed.) Film Policy: International, National, and Regional Perspectives. London: Routledge: 23-38.

Coe, N.M., and Johns, J. (2004) Beyond production clusters: towards a critical political economy of networks in the film and television industries, in D. Power and A.J. Scott (eds) The Cultural Industries and the Production of Culture. London: Routledge: 188-204.

Higson, A. (2000) The limiting imagination of national cinema, in M. Hjort and S. MacKenzie (eds.) Cinema and Nation. London: Routledge: 63-74.

Lorenzen, M. (2007) Internationalization vs. globalisation of the film industry, Industry and Innovation 14 (4): 349-357.

Lorenzen, M. (2008) Creativity at Work: On the Globalisation of the Film Industry, Creative Encounters Working Papers 8.

Vang, J., and Chaminade, C. (2007) Global-local linkages, spillovers, and cultural clusters: theoretical and empirical insights from an exploratory study of Toronto’s film cluster, Industry and Innovation 14 (4): 401-420.

Regional film production in the UK II

A few weeks ago I looked at the distribution of feature film production in the United Kingdom at the regional level, and I introduced the concept of regionally autonomous production – that is, a film which was produced in a single UK region only, irrespective of any production activity that may have taken place outside the UK (e.g. in the home country of a co-production partner). This is a negative way of defining the regional distribution of film production. A positive measure is to look at how different regions of the UK interact through their common productions.

Using the same sample of films from the UK film Council (n = 358), Table 1 presents the number of films, which being produced in one region, have connections to the other UK regions. For example, My Summer of Love (Pawel Pawlikovski, 2003) was filmed in the Government Office of Regions of Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West. This film connects these two regions in its production.

(I will not address connections between regions at the levels of distribution and exhibition, although, as I noted before, this is important given the London’s domination of these sectors of the UK film industry).

Table 1 Regional interaction in UK feature film production, 2003-2007


From Table 1 we can see that:

  • Scotland has a broad spread of common productions with other regions throughout the UK, although, as would be expected, the greatest number of links are to London (the commercial and artistic centre of the UK film industry) and the South East (the location of the major studios at Shepperton and Pinewood).
  • Northern Ireland has common productions only with London. As I noted before, Northern Ireland appears to be a distinct entity within the UK film industry, with links to the Republic of Ireland being of more importance. The links to London are inevitably the result of London’s position as the dominant force in the UK film industry and as a global city.
  • Wales has numerous common productions with the major production centres in England (East, South East, and London) and also the South West, but very few links to the rest of the UK. Proximity is not then an important issue in regional interaction: Wales has links to the neighbouring region of the South West, but not to the North West, for example.

The Celtic fringe of the UK (excluding Cornwall) does not show an overall pattern of linkages within the UK film industry, and each region interacts with the rest of the UK in a unique way.

Turning to the English regions, we find that:

  • The limited number of connections in the North East refelct the very low levels of film production in that region.
  • Yorkshiore and the Humber has a lot of features in common with other regions, refelcting its relatively low level of autnonomy (30%). Films produced in this region are rarely produced only in this region, but as such research on film production at the regional level in the UK is so slight that why this should be the case is not known. The high number of common features with the East Midlands is worth investigating further in particular.
  • The North West, by contrast, has a much higher level of autonomy (63.64%), and few common features with the rest of the UK than Yorkshire and the Humber. This may, in part, be due to Manchester’s status as an important production centre for television – the region has a (relatively) large number of firms in the audio-visual industries and so producers are able to access resources without having to leave the region (see Coe and Johns 2004 for a discussion of Manchester as production centre).
  • The two midlands regions are similar in their linkages: both are dominated by the main south east England production centre (E, SE, and LO), with only the East Midlands higher than expected links to YH and SW standing out from the pattern.
  • The South West also folllows this pattern: domination by the south eastern core, with relatively few links beyond.
  • East and South East England include the major British studios (Shepperton, Pinewood, Leavesden), and so the high level of common features with other regions tends to reflect the overall pattern of UK feature film production. The very high number of common features between SE and London is a good indicator that UK feature film production is very much concentrated in these areas: a large number of British films are produced in studios in the Sout East and film their exteriors/locations in London.

The position of London, of course, needs no comment – it dominates as one would expect the commercial and creative base of the industry to do.


Coe, N.M., and Johns, J. (2004) Beyond production clusters: towards a critical political economy of networks in the film and television industries, in Power, D. and Scott, A.J. (eds) The Cultural Industries and the Production of Culture. London: Routledge: 188-204.

A survey of UK motion picture production by government region

Since 2000, policy makers have sought to boost the global competitiveness of the film industry in the United Kingdom and to enhance its capacity for endogenous development through the territorialisation of filmmaking as an economic and cultural activity at the regional level. National bodies, such as the UK Film Council, sell the UK as a ‘film hub’ to the global film industry, while responsibility for implementation of film policy has been devolved to the regional screen agencies (Redfern 2007). This post looks at the regional geography of motion picture production in the UK between 2003 and 2007, using information drawn from official and unofficial databases.


Data was taken from the UK Film Council’s list of British films produced from 2003 to 2007 with budgets in excess of £500,000 [1]. The UK Film Council places British films in one of four categories: co-productions involving the UK as a production partner (COP); domestic features made by a UK production company (DOM); inward co-productions originating outside the UK (ICP); and inward feature films substantially originating outside the UK (INW). A limitation of the data is that it only covers productions with a budget greater than or equal to £500,000, and this excludes a significant part of UK film production. Small- and micro-budget productions are not included, and so the data presented here will actually underestimate the level of film production in the UK’s regions.

The UK Film Council does not provide data on the geography of production in the UK, and in order to determine the locations used for filming, the locations search feature on’s advanced search was utilised. When present this data is typically accurate for contemporary films, but it is difficult to assess how much data is missing. Unfortunately there is no other source that provides a similarly broad range of geographical data, as data on where film production takes in the UK is typically not collected by the regional screen agencies (although Northern Ireland Screen added a production guide to its annual reports in 2007 which does contain a list of locations for each film to shoot in the province). This data can be cross checked against other databases, press releases, and websites, but should generally be used as an estimate of the geography of film production. Given a large enough dataset it is possible to be reasonably confident that the major geographical trends can be correctly identified – beyond this and the data may prove to be unreliable.

A further issue is that this data does not reflect the level of filmmaking activity in a particular place – it does not specify if a location was used for several weeks or for a single day. Nor is it possible to estimate the level of production spend in a region.

The presentation of the data is based on the following assumptions

  • Where a film is produced in more than one region, then this counts as one connection to each region. As a film may be produced in more than one region, the total number of connections exceeds the total number of films.
  • A film has a single connection to region only, even if numerous locations within that region were used.
  • Production at a studio is classed as production activity in a region (e.g., production at Shepperton takes place in Surrey and so is classed as South East England).

The UK Film Council includes documentaries in its database, but these have been excluded here.


The UK Film Council lists 713 British films of which 462 were at least partially shot in the UK. Location data was unable for 104 of these films, leaving 358 films on which the analysis is based. Table 1 presents a breakdown of the number of UK productions to shoot in the UK by year and production category. Nearly half of the films covered here are domestic productions, with the remained mostly comprised of inward features and co-productions involving a UK production company as a significant producing partner. Incoming co-productions do not form a significant part of feature film production in the UK.

Table 1 UK feature films with budgets of £500,000 or greater to shoot in the UK from 2003 to 2007


The regional distribution of UK feature films produced in the UK from 2003 to 2007 is presented in Tables 2 and 3. The dominance of London, the South East, and East of England is immediately apparent, and these three regions account for 68.69 per cent of the total connections in the UK. From Table 2 it is evident that inward productions and co-productions to the UK are restricted to the south eastern England, although over half the films produced in Scotland were from these categories. Only two incoming co-productions were involved shoots outside south eastern England. There is very little production activity in the North East of England, with four films in five years accounting for less than 1 per cent of the total. Looking at the change in the overall level of production from year to year (Table 3) in each region, the geographical distribution of feature film production is stable and shows very little variation over the period covered here. There is production in every region in every year except for the West Midlands in 2003 and the North East in 2004 and 2007.

Table 2 Regional distribution of UK feature film production by production category, 2003 to 2007


Table 3 Year on year change in the regional distribution of feature film production in the UK, 2003 to 2007


The regional distribution of feature film production maps almost exactly onto the regional distribution of VAT-registered businesses engaged in motion picture activities (production, distribution, exhibition) (see Table 4). London, the South East, and the East accounted for 75.82 per cent of production companies in 2007 with to 67.69 per cent of UK productions shooting in these regions in that year. The Spearman rank order coefficient for the regional distribution of production and production companies in 2007 is 0.8882. London’s status a ‘global city-region’ (Sassen 2001; Scott et al. 2001) is also relevant in accounting for its ability to attract productions in a global film market. These three regions are also dominant in distribution and exhibition. Consequently, they will exert considerable influence over production in other regions as production centres at the local and/or regional level are dependent upon external financial and creative decisions that are beyond their control (Robins and Cornford 1994, Coe and Johns 2004). As Robins and Cornford (1994: 235) have noted:

The forces shaping the industry remain beyond the control and influence of local actors. The agenda is shaped by the activities of large media companies, and local or regional production industries can only struggle to adapt to the adverse conditions of this environment.

This places regional producers in a difficult position: the selling of the UK’s regions is dependent on establishing their uniqueness in a competitive market place and requires flexibility in policy formation but the UK film industry is controlled from London and its surrounding regions. The decentralising impulse of New Labour’s regional film policies must be balanced against the concentration of filmmaking activities in one part of the country that enables the UK to be globally competitive.

Table 4 VAT-based enterprises (SIC 2003) in the UK motion picture industry, 2007


The level of a region’s autonomy was determined by identifying those productions which were based in a single UK region only, and the results are presented in Table 5. An ‘autonomous production’ is defined as a film which was produced in a single UK region only, irrespective of any production activity that may have taken place outside the UK (e.g. in the home country of a co-production partner). The autonomy of a region can be used as an index of its interconnectedness with the rest of the UK film industry.

Table 5 Regional autonomy of UK motion picture production


From Table 5 it can be seen that London has a much higher proportion of autonomous productions that other southern regions, and this is to be expected: as the centre of the UK film industry London has the greatest number of productions and dominates the surrounding regions. The East and South East have more productions than the other regions but fewer of these are autonomous, and this may be accounted fro the presence of the major British studios (Shepperton, Pinewood, Leavesden) in these regions and their proximity to London. Films produced in the UK (and especially incoming films to the UK) appear to use these studio faculties and shoot on location in London. In general, the number of autonomous productions increases with distance from London. Northern Ireland stands out as being distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom, with nearly three-quarters of films to shoot in the region being autonomous.  As 11 of the 15 films to be produced in Northern Ireland were either co-productions or inward features (see Table 2) this suggests that the regions connections beyond the UK (and most obviously to the Republic of Ireland) are of more significance than its connections to the rest of the British film industry. However, as can be seen from Table 4, there were no distribution companies in Northern Ireland in 2007 and only a small proportion of the national total outside south eastern England. Regional autonomy of production should not be taken to imply separateness from the UK film industry, when in fact there is a high level of dependency in other sectors of the film industry.


  1., accessed 4 June 2009.


Coe, N.M., and Johns, J. (2004) Beyond production clusters: towards a critical political economy of networks in the film and television industries, in Power, D. and Scott, A.J. (eds) The Cultural Industries and the Production of Culture. London: Routledge: 188-204.

Redfern, N. (2007) Defining British cinema: transnational and territorial film policy in the United Kingdom, Journal of British Cinema and Television 4 (1): 150-164.

Robbins, K. and Cornford, J.  (1994) Local and regional broadcasting in the new media order, in Amin, A. and Thrift, N. (eds.) Globalisation, Institutions, and Regional Development in Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 217-238.

Sassen, S. (2001) The Global City: New York, London, and Tokyo, second edition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Scott, A.J., Agnew, J., Soja, E., and Storper, M. (2001) Global city-regions, in Scott, A.J. (ed.) Global City-Regions: Trends, Theory, Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 11-30.