The identity of the British industry, particularly as it relates to Hollywood, has often been the subject of debate. Its history has often been affected by attempts to compete with the American industry. The career of the producer Alexander Korda was marked by this objective, the Rank Organisation attempted to do so in the 1940s, and Goldcrest in the 1980s. Numerous British-born directors, including Alfred Hitchcock and Ridley Scott, and performers, such as Charlie Chaplin and Cary Grant, have achieved success primarily through their work in the United States.
In 2009, British films grossed around $2 billion worldwide and achieved a market share of around 7% globally and 17% in the United Kingdom. UK box-office takings totalled £1.1 billion in 2012, with 172.5 million admissions.
The British Film Institute has produced a poll ranking what they consider to be the 100 greatest British films of all time, the BFI Top 100 British films. The annual BAFTA awards hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts are considered to be the British equivalent of the Academy Awards.
The first moving picture was shot in Leeds by Louis Le Prince in 1888 and the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film were made in Hyde Park, London in 1889 by British inventor William Friese Greene, who patented the process in 1890.
The first people to build and run a working 35 mm camera in Britain were Robert W. Paul and Birt Acres. They made the first British film Incident at Clovelly Cottage in February 1895, shortly before falling out over the camera's patent. Soon several British film companies had opened to meet the demand for new films, such as Mitchell and Kenyon in Blackburn.
Although the earliest British films were of everyday events, the early 20th century saw the appearance of narrative shorts, mainly comedies and melodramas. The early films were often melodramatic in tone, and there was a distinct preference for story lines already known to the audience, in particular, adaptations of Shakespeare plays and Dickens novels.
The Lumière brothers first brought their show to London in 1896. In 1898 American producer Charles Urban expanded the London-based Warwick Trading Company to produce British films, mostly documentary and news. In 1903 he formed his own Charles Urban Trading Company, which produced early color films using his patented Kinemacolor process, which was challenged in court by Greene, causing it to go out of business in 1915.