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Screen stats show growth

Statistics NZ’s Screen Industry numbers are in for 2015, confirming what has been apparent from anecdotal evidence – that life for those engaged in screen production has been considerably better since government revised incentive rates in 2014.

The headline number, $3.22 billion of revenue for the sector, was up 2% on the previous year, although the sector as a whole didn’t grow evenly.

Across all areas of the industry, including distribution, exhibition and TV, the headline number was up 2% or, according to the NZ Herald, “Screen industry booms”. As usually happens, Wellington earned more from film production, Auckland more from TV.

In short, production spend in Wellington dropped by more than half – pretty much all of which is attributable to the end of production on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. Overall production spend and cash from overseas were both up, the period coinciding with the arrival of government’s higher incentive rates.

The one bit of not so good news in the stats was a drop in employment in the industries. However, those numbers related to the previous year, when standstill government funding and a 15% incentive rate were delivering very little in the way of opportunities, let alone actual work.

In the report the revenue numbers for television (pay tv subscriptions, programme sponsorship and advertising) and distribution and exhibition were not disclosed individually, but were included in the total. Between them, they earned c$76 million less than in the previous year. As exhibition income held steady last year, it’s reasonable to assume that distribution and free to air broadcasters are bearing the brunt of that drop.

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By contrast, screen production spend grew 15%, post-production 4%.

Unsurprisingly, Wellington businesses earned 78% of post-production revenue, and 90% of animation/VFX revenue. The actual figures are confidential, because of the extent to which they’re the work of Park Road Post and Weta Digital.

Their dominance is a double-edged sword. NZ productions certainly benefit from access to companies working at that level, but their reputations are so strong it can make it difficult for other businesses in those fields to compete effectively for work on inbound productions. Despite government lowering the incentive threshold, to encourage more opportunities for smaller companies, there’s little evidence that’s really happening yet.

Of the international relations, Stats NZ reported that 106 co-productions completed in the 2015 year, up over 30% on the previous year – the numbers again a reaction to the arrival of the new incentive rates.

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Revenue from Asia rose a whopping 500+%, to $74 million, outstripping the combined revenue from traditional partners Australia and the UK. The Asian revenue suggests that NZFC CEO Dave Gibson’s policy of encouraging greater engagement with business in Asia can deliver returns. Earlier this year (and therefore not included in the Stats NZ figures released today) Huhu Studios became the first NZ company to get approval for an official feature film co-production with China.

Just as there was money coming into the country from inbound or co-production activities, the wealth was also being shared elsewhere. NZ screen industry businesses spent $63 million on production and post-production in other countries – a jump from $21 million the previous year.

The full Stats NZ data is available to download here.

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