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November 4, 2013

How many people work in the film industry in the UK?

Old film director work in the film industryI was asked by Kat, “How many people work in the UK Film Industry?” so I took a look.  In summary…

  • In 2012, there were 70,000 people at work in the film industry in the UK
  • 65% work in production, 10% in distribution and 25% in exhibition.
  • We are currently in a boom for film production jobs, up 261% on 1996
  • Most of this is fuelled by Hollywood’s inward investment in the UK
  • Many cinema staff are on zero-hour contracts
  • The number of cinema screens is stable but exhibition jobs are not

We’re in a boom for film jobs…

2011 was the biggest year for UK film jobs in a very long time (I can’t find figures going back far enough but it’s the biggest year I could find on record).

What is causing this boom?

HMRCThere are likely to be a number of factors behind the recent boom in film industry workers. One major factor is new digital acquisition and distribution methods making it easier to shoot and screen films.  However, the biggest single factor has to be the UK Tax Credit system.

Currently, producers of British films can claim back around 20% of the money they spend in the UK from the government.  This system is generous, simple and has been stable since 2006.

Leavesden StudiosThe government has repeatedly stated that this is going to be around for a while, signalling to large film producers (including the Hollywood studios) that the UK is a good place for long-term strategic decisions.  This has led to Warner Bros making Leavesden Studios its European base (much to the chagrin of some of the local residents).

This increased confidence in the UK as a shooting location is revealed in the investment figures in UK film productions.

The changing shape of work in the film industry

Our industry is growing, but not evenly.  The majority of new jobs are in production whereas the film exhibition section has had numerous periods of decline.

Interestingly, the number of cinema screens in the UK has grown slowly and consistently over the past few decades, which doesn’t match the employment pattern I’ve illustrated above.  This means that the large fluctuations in employment within film exhibition are not entirely due to changes in the number of cinemas.

I can only conclude that this is related to a shift towards multiplex cinemas which need fewer members of staff. Anecdotally, I have noticed in recent years that Vue cinemas have removed many of their box office staff and instead direct customers to buy tickets at the popcorn counter.  I presume this decreases the number of staff needed and increases the number of impulse purchases of overpriced sugar.

Cineworld cinemasMany cinema staff are on flexible contracts, including those at Curzon and Everyman cinemas who are on zero-hour contracts and Odeon employees are only guaranteed a minimum of four hours a week.

Cineworld also operate on zero-hour contracts and their CEO Stephen Wiener recently defending the practice saying “I know zero hours is a dirty word but it allows us to employ as many people as possible”.

Rory from Raindance has also suggested that the shift to digital distribution has reduced the number of projectionists. He noted…

A couple of years ago the (then Apollo, now Vue) cinema we use for the festive had 2-3 full time projectionists and brought in another for the festival. now the cinema has no permanent projectionists


Today’s data comes from the Office of National Statistics Labour Force Study, the BFI, BECTU and Dodona Research.

It’s worth noting that the method for calculating the number of people in employment within the fields of film and video production and distribution changed between 2006 and 2007.  Therefore, the numbers in my employment chart before 2007 and those after 2007 are not directly comparable.  However, the alteration is minor and I wanted to show employment figures from a longer period than just 2007-12 in order to illustrate just how much our industry has grown in recent years. I beg forgiveness from the Statistical Gods and shall perform 100 Histogram Marys as penance.

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