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Nigel Sheinwald

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Making Magic With UK's Creative Industries

Posted: 07/14/11 02:37 PM ET

It seems everyone's spellbound over the release of the final Harry Potter movie. We had a wizard time here at the Embassy yesterday evening, where along with Time Warner Inc. and Warner Bros. Pictures we co-hosted a reception for some of our friends around Washington, and enjoyed the D.C. premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2. Though I'm not sure who was more excited about the film, the children or the parents.

I'm sure millions more will see the film in theatres this weekend. The first seven films have already grossed more than $6 billion worldwide, including $2 billion in North America, making Harry Potter the most commercially successful movie franchise in history. It's true cinematic alchemy.

And the film has worked its magic far beyond the box office: Leavesden Studios in London, where all the movies were filmed and produced, was recently purchased by Time Warner. In addition to offering a walking tour of the studio (no word yet on a flying broom tour), Leavesden will now operate as Time Warner's UK film production base, employing nearly 2,000 people and continuing to attract billions of dollars of film production budgets.

The Harry Potter phenomenon shows the bubbling cauldron that is the British film industry. Of the top 200 films at the worldwide box office from 2001 to 2007, half featured British actors, 30 were based on stories and characters from UK writers, and 20 were directed by UK directors. UK films are noted for their quality as well: British films have pulled 17 Oscars out of the hat in the last three years.

In addition to their successful past, British films -- if I may gaze into my crystal ball for a moment -- have a bright future ahead. While I was in Los Angeles, welcoming the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for their first visit to the United States, I had the privilege of attending a special event hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. The evening brought together up-and-coming British film talent with some of Hollywood's most influential actors, directors, and producers. Perhaps the next Daniel Craig, Keira Knightley, or Christopher Nolan was in attendance, just on the verge of becoming a household name.

Thinking of the UK's creative industries conjures up far more than just the cinema. The music industry that had the world under its spell with the rock and roll "British Invasion" of the 1960s goes from strength to strength in today's UK, generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year. There are more albums sold per capita in the UK than anywhere else in the world. We're home to Europe's second-largest publishing industry (fuelled in no small part by Ms. Rowling's works), as well as some of the world's foremost video game programmers.

Many of these modern wizards have chosen to practise their magic in East London's new Tech City development. With its cutting edge technology infrastructure and attractive location, Tech City has quickly become a bustling nexus of creative young entrepreneurs. Small start-ups and major firms alike, including Google and Cisco, are enjoying the benefits of the potent brew of innovators, ideas and investors. Of course ambitious developments on this scale take more than just the wave of a wand to get off the ground, which is why the government has shown its support and pledged investments of more than £200 million for Tech City.

Whether it's on the silver screen or the information superhighway, innovators from around the world are finding the UK open for business. Collaborations between the US and UK, which already account for a million jobs on each side of the Atlantic, will continue to be at the heart of our economic prosperity. And works like the Harry Potter films, made possible through the efforts of both British and American film talent, show that our relationship can not only be special, but sometimes magical.

 

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