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August 3, 2015

What percentage of UK films are not in English language?

The Passion of the Christ is top among films are not in English languageI think most UK cinema-goers would be surprised to learn that almost half of all cinematically released films are not in English language.  As you would expect, the vast majority of the UK box office takings go to films coming from Hollywood (76.5% in 2014) and almost every single one of them is in English. However, outside of “studio films”, there are a large number of feature films released in the UK which don’t feature English as their main language.

In summary…

  • 40% of the films released in UK cinemas during 2013 films are not in English language
  • Only 2.1% of the 2013 UK box office went to films not in the English language
  • Since 2001, foreign language films have accounted for 35.4% of UK cinema releases
  • The most popular non-English language within films released in the UK is Hindi
  • The Passion of the Christ is the highest grossing non-English film in both the UK and America

Two out of every five UK films are not in English language

40% of the films released in UK cinemas during 2013 were not in English (280 films out of the 698 releases).  Of the 418 films which were in English, 360 were only in English and 58 were in English but also featured extensive use of other languages, such as Captain Phillips which was in English and Somali.

Although they make up a sizeable percentage by number, they account for a very small amount of the overall box office receipts – only 2.1% of the 2013 UK box office went to films not in the English language.

Number of film releases in the UK by language 2013

This is not a new trend; since 2001, foreign language films have accounted for 35.4% of UK cinema releases (that’s 2,324 films out of a total of 6,573 releases)

40% of 2013's films are not in English language

What are the top non-English languages?

The most popular non-English language within films released in the UK is Hindi, accounting for 42 releases in 2013 and grossing £13 million at the box office.

A large number of UK films are not in English language

Which are the top performing foreign language films?

Since 2001, The Passion of the Christ is the highest grossing non-English film in both the UK and America.

Highest grossing non-English films in the UK, 2001-13

 FilmLanguageUK box officeYear of release
1The Passion of the ChristAramaic/Latin/Hebrew£11.08m2004
2Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonMandarin£9.37m2001
3AmélieFrench/Russian£5.01m2001
4ApocalyptoMayan£4.11m2007
5HeroMandarin£3.82m2004
6House of Flying DaggersMandarin£3.78m2004
7VolverSpanish£2.88m2006
8The Motorcycle DiariesSpanish£2.75m2004
9Pan’s LabyrinthSpanish£2.72m2006
10Dhoom: 3Hindi£2.71m2013

Highest grossing non-English films in the USA, 1980-present

 FilmLanguageUSA box officeYear of release
1The Passion of the ChristAramaic/Latin/Hebrew$370m2004
2Crouching Tiger, Hidden DragonMandarin$128m2000
3Life Is BeautifulItalian$57m1998
4HeroMandarin$53m2004
5Instructions Not IncludedSpanish$44m2013
6Pan's LabyrinthSpanish$37m2006
7AmélieFrench/Russian$33m2001
8Jet Li's FearlessMandarin$24m2006
9Il PostinoItalian$21m1995
10Like Water for Chocolate$21m1993

Data

The data for today’s article came from the BFI, Rentrak, IMDb, Box Office Mojo and the BBFC.

If you want to learn more about the topic then I recommend reading these two papers by Huw D Jones of the Mediating Cultural Encounters through European Screens (MeCETES) project at the University of York…

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One Response

  1. Huw Jones August 3, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for the recommendation. Love the blog, by the way.
    Huw

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