AI, Failing Distribution to be Examined by U.K. Government Probe

The challenges raised by AI and the alarming recent failures of the theatrical distribution system are among the topics that a U.K. parliamentary inquiry will address.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee (CMS) will examine the current challenges faced by the British film and high-end television industry (HETV). Inward investment into film and high-end television (HETV) in the U.K. during 2022 reached a record height of £6.27 billion ($7.72 billion), statistics from the BFI revealed earlier this year. This is the highest ever reported figure and is £1.83 billion higher than for the pre-pandemic year 2019. Some 69% of the £6.27 billion spend was contributed by HETV production with £4.30 billion, with feature film production contributing £1.97 billion.

However, spend on independent U.K. filmmaking showed a downturn with £174 million, a 31% decrease on 2021. The committee will investigate what needs to be done to maintain and enhance the U.K. as a global destination for production and how the independent film production sector can best be supported. It will examine issues around skills and retention in the industry and what needs to be done to ensure the sector can adapt to challenges such as the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). It will also look at the challenges for British cinemas, following the recent Cineworld restructure and the Empire chain going into administration.

The inquiry comes 20 years after a previous committee’s report on the British film industry, which made recommendations around the tax regime and training and development and helped shape the modern British film industry.

The committee is inviting written submissions by Sept. 19 seeking answers to the following questions:

How attractive is the U.K. as a global destination for the production of film and high-end television? What are the barriers to maintaining and increasing overseas investment in the sector? What are the benefits and challenges of overseas investment for the U.K.’s film-making capacity? What are the current challenges facing the U.K.’s independent film production sector? What is the demand for and capacity for production of films with a clear British identity? Are the nations and regions of the U.K. adequately represented and supported in the production of British films? What more can be done to incentivise film and high-end television production in the U.K.?

In addition, the committee is also asking: Are the current funding routes, tax credits and governance for the industry fit for purpose? What are the issues facing the U.K.’s film exhibition sector? What more can be done to protect and promote the U.K.’s screen heritage? What can the industry and government do to ensure British film and high-end television can adapt for the future? What should be prioritised to ensure a strong skills pipeline and retention in the film and high-end TV industry? What are the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence to the sector? and, what needs to change to ensure the industry is supporting inclusivity and sustainability?

Caroline Dinenage, chair of the CMS committee, said: “Thousands of cinema goers enjoying the new ‘Barbie’ film this weekend will get to see the latest success story for the British film and high-end TV industry, with the construction of Barbieland from scratch at a studio in the U.K. demonstrating the sector’s excellent track-record in attracting blockbusters to our shores.

We will be looking at how to maintain the attractiveness of the U.K. as a global destination for production while ensuring independent films, similar to recent hits ‘Rye Lane’ and ‘Aftersun,’ can be made and seen. The financial problems encountered by big name cinema chains have highlighted the importance of protecting and promoting the U.K.’s screen heritage, while the actors and writers strikes in the United States show the importance of getting ahead of the game in adapting skills and responding to the challenges of artificial intelligence.

The challenge now is to make sure the industry and government are thinking of the future to maintain and enhance an industry that is hugely important both to the economy and to the culture of the U.K. and its power on the world stage.”

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