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UK-Ireland releases hit nine-year high in Q1 2023 but cinema admissions plummet

Source: Dreamworks Animation

‘Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’

The first quarter (Q1) of 2023 has seen the highest volume of films released in UK and Ireland cinemas between January and March since 2014, according to statistics revealed today (May 5) by the British Film Institute (BFI). 

However admissions in the period were the lowest since 2014, the year the BFI began quarterly reporting. This excludes the pandemic-impacted year of 2021, in which cinemas were mostly closed. 

A total of 234 films were released Q1 2023, including event titles and Ireland-only releases, based on Comscore’s theatrical reporting. This is excluding three Netflix films, which had limited runs and did not report box-office takings to Comscore.

There were 26 million cinema tickets sold in the UK in Q1 – 6% lower than the same period in 2022, 27% less than 2020 and 30% down on 2019.

The total Q1 2023 box-office revenue in the UK only was £207.2m, 2% higher than box-office revenue for Q1 2022, and 21% lower than Q1 in 2019. This figure includes box-office earnings from releases at the end of December the year prior. 

In the UK and Ireland, the box-office figure generated only from new releases in the first quarter is £191.1m.

The highest-grossing film released was Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, earning just under £26m. What’s Love Got To Do With It? was the highest-earning UK independent release in Q1 2023, with a gross box office of over £4.8m.

The market share of UK independent films was 9%. February was the strongest month in Q1 for admissions, with 9.2 million tickets sold, driven by two studio releases – Puss In Boots: The Last Wish and Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. Between them, the franchise sequels delivered 40% of the UK box office in February.



Source: Studiocanal/Focus

Marisa Abela as Amy Winehouse in ‘Back To Black’

The BFI has also released Q1 figures for UK production. The combined total spend on film and high-end television (HETV) production in the UK for Q1 2023 was £922m from 88 productions.

UK spend on film and HETV productions for the 12 months from April 2022 to March 2023 was £5.3bn. This is the second-highest figure seen since records began (in 2002). It is a 29% decrease on the record high (£7.5bn) of the previous 12-month period, which saw an immense volume of production owing to a post-Covid pandemic backlog. Inward Investment productions accounted for £4.4bn or 84% of the total.

Forty-one films started shooting during Q1 2023, 13 fewer than as reported for Q1 2022. The total UK spend of these films was £381m, 55% lower than the record-breaking £847m reported for Q1 2022. The BFI report noted large scale inward investment features started filming in December 2022, so were captured in last year’s data, however the majority of their filming is taking place in Q1 of this year. 

During the latest 12-month period, 216 films began principal photography, with a total UK production spend of £1.5bn. This is 37% drop from £2.4bn seen in the previous 12-month period. It is the lowest reported number of films for a rolling 12-month period since records began in 2002. However the BFI report caveats this is likely to be revised upwards owing to a lag in obtaining complete data for homegrown low-budget features.

For the latest 12-month period, inward investment films accounted for 85% of the total spend (£1.3 bn). Spend on UK features was £158m, or 10% of the total, down from £270m reported for the previous rolling 12-month period. Coproduction films had a UK spend of £75m and accounted for 5% of the total UK spend, and the highest figure for the past decade.

Inward investment films in Q1 2023 accounted for £337m from 17 productions, including A Quiet Place: Day One, Ghostbusters: Hell’s Kitchen, Back To Black and Bade Miyan Chote Miyan. Spend from UK features was £30.6m from 17 films, such as Four Letters Of Love, Magpie and The Stoic. UK-Ireland production Kneecap also started principal photography, one of seven co-productions, totalling a spend of £13.5m.


Forty-seven HETV productions began principal photography in Q1 2023 with a total UK spend of £549m, a decrease from £999m reported in the Q1 2022 official statistics release. The Q1 spend on inward investment and co-productions was £408m (74% of the total) and domestic productions accounted for £141m.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, 186 HETV productions started principal photography, 64 fewer than in the previous 12 month period. Total HETV production spend was £3.7bn, the second highest since the introduction of the HETV tax relief in 2013.

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