The total value of the UK’s film, TV, and streaming industries rose 5.6% in 2023 to £12.5 billion, according to new data. This growth was driven by increases in subscription streaming services as well as a revival of movie theaters.
UK Cinemas Starting to See More Ticket Sales
Cinemas across the UK took a big hit when the pandemic forced them to shut down. But two years on, things are slowly getting back to normal.
The latest numbers show that box office earnings in 2022 reached £902 million. That’s definitely higher than 2021 when less than £75 million worth of tickets were sold. It is however still off from what cinemas made before COVID. About 117 million tickets were purchased last year compared to under 75 million in 2021. So more people are going to the movies. That said, it’s still fewer than before the lockdowns.
There are good signs though. Forecasts predict that by 2026, the UK film industry could bring in around $4.7 billion. Right now it makes about $3 billion less than that. If these projections are right, the country could once again become one of the biggest for filmed entertainment. The road to recovery has had its fair share of bumps. But higher ticket sales and earnings show that cinemas are headed towards pre-pandemic levels, even if slowly.
Home Entertainment Up Over 10%
The home entertainment sector, covering streaming subscriptions, digital purchases and rentals, and physical disc sales, grew 10.8% year-over-year to £4.9 billion. This follows 14.3% growth the previous year, showing continued momentum even as the effects of the pandemic recede.
Driving this growth was an increase in subscription streaming services. There were 56 million UK streaming subscriptions in 2023, up 5.4%, with 19.3 million UK households now having access to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+.
Ad-supported tiers on these platforms are expected to add £200 million to the home entertainment market in 2024. Meanwhile, premium subscription revenues will be up 20% this year to £1.6 billion across services like HBO Max.
Barbie Leads Across Box Office and Home Releases
The highest grossing and selling film of 2023 was Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” film starring Margot Robbie. It earned £95.6 million at the UK-Ireland box office following its July release.
The film then sold over 770,000 units combined across digital platforms and physical discs after its October home release. 402,000 of those were digital or disc purchases while 368,000 were digital rentals.
This made Warner Bros. the top distributor for physical with 30.6% market share and digital with 19.4% share. Disney led in theatrical releases thanks largely to “Avatar: The Way of Water,” but Warner Bros. also had hits with “Barbie,” “Black Adam,” and “Elvis.”
Digital Downloads Decline But Still Dominate
While digital movie purchases and rentals remain the largest part of the transactional home entertainment market, its value did fall significantly from £231 million in 2022 down to £172 million this past year. Some of this may be due to the growth in subscription streaming options as well as consumers tightening budgets in the face of economic uncertainty.
Still, movie downloads dominate with Avatar: The Way of Water the top-selling digital title with 560,000 units. Barbie led digital rentals with 368,000.
DVDs Show Surprising Resilience
Many have predicted the death of DVDs and physical media for over a decade, yet they continue to maintain a substantial minority share of home entertainment revenue.
In 2023, DVD sales did decline but Warner Bros.’ film “Black Adam” starring Dwayne Johnson was still the number one title, selling 80,000 units. Catalog titles like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Elvis” also sold very well, showing the ongoing appeal of physical media for certain demographics and collectors.
The Overall Outlook Remains Strong
The global film/TV entertainment market (excluding gaming and music) hit $753 billion in 2023, accounting for 75% of all entertainment spending worldwide. This total spend is expected to top $1 trillion next year in 2024.
“Visual entertainment began and remains a content-first industry,” said Robert Marsh, chair of the British Association for Screen Entertainment. “Our new releases should be celebrated, but it is the almost unlimited breadth of catalog titles that truly anchors the appeal of our market in the UK.”
Indeed, catalog titles represented 75% of disc purchases and over half of digital downloads. This shows that hit films and shows can have very long lives generating revenue across physical and digital formats.
So while areas like DVD sales may slowly decline, the overall outlook for the UK screen industries remains strong thanks to the depth of content libraries and the growth in streaming. More great films, shows, and immersive experiences will continue driving more ways for audiences to access and enjoy visual entertainment.