Where are the best and worst cities in the UK to make films?

Like this, but rubbish and British. Image: Getty.

What’s the best way to rank cities? If you ask a square, they’ll probably start by talking about population or GDP or land area.

Wrong. The best way, clearly, is to look at how good the films made there are. So let’s take a look at the quality of the average film shot in or near (within 10 miles of) a given UK city, as determined by the filming locations and reviews stored in IMDB, the Internet Movie Database*.

Because CityMetric has a reputation to maintain, let’s start with a map of UK cities by film quality:

Which UK cities are home to the worst films?

5) Armagh

Films made within 10 miles: 3

Average IMDB rating: 5.47/10

Armagh in Northern Ireland was previously known for its two cathedrals, its observatory and its Georgian architecture, according to what someone has written on Wikipedia. But now it will be known for being the 5th worst place to make movies in!

Worst film: Shrooms (IMDB rating: 4.7/10)

Shot down the road in Gosford Forest Park, Shrooms is the story of some American college students who take the illegal hallucinogenic drug of mushrooms: with hilarious, but murderous, consequences!

IMDB reviewers say: “yet another fear-mongering propagandist defecation”.

4) Southampton

Films shot within 10 miles: 33

Average IMDB rating: 5.17/10

“In Southampton, no one knows anything,” wrote William Goldman. Wait, no, sorry, he was talking about Hollywood.

Worst film: Battlefield Death Tales (IMDB rating: 2.3/10)

Also known as Nazi Zombie Death Tales, this anthology of World War II horror stories was partly made in Southampton, although sadly it doesn’t say which part: hopefully the one about Nazi Zombies.

IMDB reviewers say: “Watch it if you have seen every other movie in the world and have nothing else to watch.”

3) Aberdeen

Films made within 10 miles: 3

Average IMDB rating: 4.83/10

Ah, Aberdeen, “the silver city with the golden sands”, as an optimistic 1950s tourist campaign had it. Although not as optimistic as Aberdeen’s silver screen ambitions, as it turns out.

Worst film: Attack of the Herbals (IMDB rating: 3.6/10)

Scottish villagers try to save a local business from a supermarket takeover by selling herbal tea. Which turns out to be Nazi zombie juice, or something. Well, at least it’s original.

IMDB reviewers say: “It's...perfectly fine if you are on the phone while writing poetry”.

2) St Asaph

Films made within 10 miles: 4

Average IMDB rating: 4.83/10

Congratulations to St Asaph: you guys may only have been a city since 2012, but you’re already home to some of the shittest films in the UK, including:

Worst film: Saint Dracula 3D (IMDB rating: 3/10)

Dracula falls in love with a nun. Sorry, Dracula, for the first time in 3D, falls in love with a nun. “The Catastrophic Lover” boasts the incoherent trailer.

Even the limp claim to be the first 3D Dracula movie isn’t true, as it was beaten by Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D. The Wikipedia page includes a section titled “Oscar eligibility”, in which it is explained that as Saint Dracula 3D was, technically speaking, a film, it was definitely eligible to be Oscar-nominated.

IMDB reviewers say: “Even the trailer is awful”

1) Lichfield

Films made within 10 miles: 2

Average IMDB rating: 4.8/10

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Lichfield anymore,” Dorothy would have said, if she was from Lichfield.

Worst film: Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?! (IMDB rating: 3.6/10)

Martin Clunes receives some sort of brain injury that causes him to lose a donkey, enter a flashmob competition, and propose to Catherine Tate. If I ever have a kid I am not letting it find out about films because for Christ’s sake.

IMDB reviewers say: “if this is a "British" film then I don't want to be British anymore”.


Which UK cities make the best films?

So where should you shoot your film to guarantee cinematic gold? Here are the top 5 UK film cities.

5) Newry

Films made within 10 miles: 8

Average IMDB rating: 6.86/10

Best film: Philomena (IMDB rating: 7.6/10)

4) Durham

Films made within 10 miles: 11

Average IMDB rating: 6.9/10

Best film: Billy Elliot (IMDB rating: 7.7/10)

3) Derby

Films made within 10 miles: 11

Average IMDB rating: 6.9/10

Best film: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (IMDB rating: 7.8/10)

2) Lincoln

Films made within 10 miles: 5

Average IMDB rating: 7.2/10

Best film: Full Metal Jacket (IMDB rating: 8.3/10)

1) Lancaster

Films made within 10 miles: 4

Average IMDB rating: 7.25/10

Best film: Brief Encounter (IMDB rating: 8.1/10)

There’s only one city in the UK that doesn’t appear as a location in a single feature film eligible for inclusion in the dataset: Dundee. The closest it gets is Shooting Clerks, a crowdfunded film from a niche production company who for some reason appear to almost entirely specialise in producing biopics of the be-jorted film director Kevin Smith, and something called The Tartan Horror Story, neither of which have yet merited enough IMDB ratings to be counted. So, location scouts looking for untapped potential: it’s Dundee time.

Actually, is Paul Hogan busy these days? Because I’ve just had an idea.

* Excluding documentaries, short films, live concert films, and anything that’s received less than a hundred ratings. If Sex Lives of the Potato Men can get 2,092, I’m not convinced anything with less than a hundred votes has actually been seen by anyone who isn’t the director’s mum.

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“Stop worrying about hairdressers”: The UK government has misdiagnosed its productivity problem

We’re going as fast as we can, here. Image: Getty.

Gonna level with you here, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I’m a huge fan of schadenfreude, so learning that it the government has messed up in a previously unsuspected way gives me this sort of warm glow inside. On the other hand, the way it’s been screwing up is probably making the country poorer, and exacerbating the north south divide. So, mixed reviews really.

Here’s the story. This week the Centre for Cities (CfC) published a major report on Britain’s productivity problem. For the last 200 years, ever since the industrial revolution, this country has got steadily richer. Since the financial crash, though, that seems to have stopped.

The standard narrative on this has it that the problem lies in the ‘long tail’ of unproductive businesses – that is, those that produce less value per hour. Get those guys humming, the thinking goes, and the productivity problem is sorted.

But the CfC’s new report says that this is exactly wrong. The wrong tail: Why Britain’s ‘long tail’ is not the cause of its productivity problems (excellent pun, there) delves into the data on productivity in different types of businesses and different cities, to demonstrate two big points.

The first is that the long tail is the wrong place to look for productivity gains. Many low productivity businesses are low productivity for a reason:

The ability of manufacturing to automate certain processes, or the development of ever more sophisticated computer software in information and communications have greatly increased the output that a worker produces in these industries. But while a fitness instructor may use a smartphone today in place of a ghetto blaster in 1990, he or she can still only instruct one class at a time. And a waiter or waitress can only serve so many tables. Of course, improvements such as the introduction of handheld electronic devices allow orders to be sent to the kitchen more efficiently, will bring benefits, but this improvements won’t radically increase the output of the waiter.

I’d add to that: there is only so fast that people want to eat. There’s a physical limit on the number of diners any restaurant can actually feed.

At any rate, the result of this is that it’s stupid to expect local service businesses to make step changes in productivity. If we actually want to improve productivity we should focus on those which are exporting services to a bigger market.  There are fewer of these, but the potential gains are much bigger. Here’s a chart:

The y-axis reflects number of businesses at different productivities, shown on the x-axis. So bigger numbers on the left are bad; bigger numbers on the right are good. 

The question of which exporting businesses are struggling to expand productivity is what leads to the report’s second insight:

Specifically it is the underperformance of exporting businesses in cities outside of the Greater South East that causes not only divergences across the country in wages and standards of living, but also hampers national productivity. These cities in particular should be of greatest concern to policy makers attempting to improve UK productivity overall.

In other words, it turned out, again, to the north-south divide that did it. I’m shocked. Are you shocked? This is my shocked face.

The best way to demonstrate this shocking insight is with some more graphs. This first one shows the distribution of productivity in local services business in four different types of place: cities in the south east (GSE) in light green, cities in the rest of the country (RoGB) in dark green, non-urban areas in the south east in purple, non-urban areas everywhere else in turquoise.

The four lines are fairly consistent. The light green, representing south eastern cities has a lower peak on the left, meaning slightly fewer low productivity businesses, but is slightly higher on the right, meaning slightly more high productivity businesses. In other words, local services businesses in the south eastern cities are more productive than those elsewhere – but the gap is pretty narrow. 

Now check out the same graph for exporting businesses:

The differences are much more pronounced. Areas outside those south eastern cities have many more lower productivity businesses (the peaks on the left) and significantly fewer high productivity ones (the lower numbers on the right).

In fact, outside the south east, cities are actually less productive than non-urban areas. This is really not what you’d expect to see, and no a good sign for the health of the economy:

The report also uses a few specific examples to illustrate this point. Compare Reading, one of Britain’s richest medium sized cities, with Hull, one of its poorest:

Or, looking to bigger cities, here’s Bristol and Sheffield:

In both cases, the poorer northern cities are clearly lacking in high-value exporting businesses. This is a problem because these don’t just provide well-paying jobs now: they’re also the ones that have the potential to make productivity gains that can lead to even better jobs. The report concludes:

This is a major cause for concern for the national economy – the underperformance of these cities goes a long way to explain both why the rest of Britain lags behind the Greater South East and why it performs poorly on a

European level. To illustrate the impact, if all cities were as productive as those in the Greater South East, the British economy would be 15 per cent more productive and £225bn larger. This is equivalent to Britain being home to four extra city economies the size of Birmingham.

In other words, the lesson here is: stop worrying about the productivity of hairdressers. Start worrying about the productivity of Hull.


You can read the Centre for Cities’ full report here.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites

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