THE King’s Speech, one of the highest grossing British movies of all time, came within touching distance of being filmed in the Isle of Man, it has been revealed.
Economic Development Minister Allan Bell MHK revealed just how close the island had come to clinching a deal for filming of what turned out to be a box office smash when he launched a robust defence of the Manx movie industry.
It is an industry that has come under the spotlight following questions raised in the House of Keys and Tynwald over the level of return on multi-million-pound investments connected with film-making. It has emerged that £33.8 million has been invested in 13 films by CinemaNX since 2007, but so far receipts of £6.2m had been received and £10.5m had been written off.
But CinemaNX chairman Steve Christian has insisted that no taxpayers’ money has been lost and the industry since it was launched had provided a direct benefit to the Manx exchequer of up to £250m.
Mr Bell told the Examiner that the criticisms were damaging the industry.
He said: ‘We were within touching distance of having the King’s Speech made over here, only at the last minute the Weinstein Brothers stepped in.
‘If that had gone ahead, we wouldn’t be having this debate at all. You won’t be successful on every occasion. It only takes one film but you can never be sure what that film will be.’
From a budget of £8m, the King’s Speech has grossed around £250m internationally.
One recent success story for CinemaNX and Isle of Man Film has been TT3D: Closer to the Edge. Some £2.6 million was invested in CinemaNX but UK box office receipts have already passed £1.2m.
He said: ‘The film has also sold in Australia, France, Germany, Scandinavia, South Korea, Portugal and many other smaller countries. Deals for the sale of the movie in the US, Canada, Italy and Japan are currently under discussion.’
He said that during the past 16 years the Isle of Man has co-financed and co-produced 96 feature films, TV drama series and/or animation projects, generating an estimated total local spend of £75.5m.
Mr Bell insisted that ‘not one penny’ of taxpayers’ money had gone into the film industry, which he said had been entirely self-financing.
He said: ‘It is very important that we do not let ourselves get deflected and we continue to concentrate on the job in hand which is making successful movies. The Media Development Fund now has a higher balance than when established in 2002 (£33m as opposed to £25m). The notion that film has lost money is pure fantasy.’
Mr Bell insisted that the island’s movie industry was still a money-spinner, certainly for the ‘time being’. He said his department was working on a new model to take the industry forward.
‘There were those who scoffed at the very idea of the Isle of Man attracting films in 1995,’ he said.
‘If we had listened to the merchants of doom then this island would be over £200m poorer.
‘The idea was courageous and ground-breaking back then and has proved to be a huge success at every level since. We mustn’t let the nay-sayers derail us now.’