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Wednesday, July 7, 1999 Published at 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK


Boost for children's films

Babe: A huge success

Britain's film-makers are being encouraged to make more movies for children.

The move has come after a government report - Making Movies Matter - found that the industry currently devotes few resources to younger audiences.

Culture Secretary Chris Smith has now asked the new Film Council - which will take over the Arts Council's role in funding the film industry next year - to set money aside for special films for children under 12.

He emphasised the potential of films to be valuable sources of education and entertainment for children, as well as good money-spinners for the industry.

He said money could come from the council's 150m lottery funding, over the next three years.

[ image: Chris Smith: Stressing the educational benefits of films]
Chris Smith: Stressing the educational benefits of films
"I will be asking the Film Council, with its guaranteed share of lottery money, to consider the production of films for children in developing its lottery strategy," he said.

He added the government's Film Education Working Group has noticed wide-ranging cultural and financial benefits of family feature films.

The 1995 animal adventure, Babe, about a piglet of the same name, earned 150m worldwide for its Australian and American makers.

Similarly, the 1997 British film The Borrowers grossed 46m. In 1997, Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie - which starred Rowan Atkinson and appealed to children and adults alike - made over 80m.

Even so, since the closure of the Children's Film Foundation in 1981, very few British films have been aimed at under-12s.

Mr Smith hopes the report can help to fill this gap in an otherwise burgeoning British film industry, by stressing the long-term value of children and family features.

[ image: Wallace and Grommit: Crossover appeal]
Wallace and Grommit: Crossover appeal
The combination of education and entertainment are at the top of the list of benefits of being highlighted by the government .

"As we move into the 21st century, the ability to understand and appreciate moving images, on screen, through CD-Roms or via the Internet, is becoming increasingly important in both work and leisure," Mr Smith said.

He added: "To a young child, going to the cinema can be an immensely exciting experience - most of us can remember going to see our first film."

Since the demise of the Children's Film Foundation, the only body fulfilling a similar role is the Children's Film Unit.

This is a charitable organisation making low budget films like Emily's Ghost and the Gingerbread House, both recently shown on Channel 4.

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