The British film industry had a mixed year in 2008, according to new figures, with box office takings at record levels but foreign investment down significantly.

The UK Film Council said cinema-goers in the UK and Ireland spent £949.5 million last year, up 5% from 2007 and the highest box office receipts since records began in 1989.

British films accounted for 31% of cinema takings, the second highest in a decade, and the three biggest-grossing films of the year - Quantum of Solace, Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight - were all made with significant British involvement.

But overseas investment in film-making in the UK fell by more than a third - down from £523 million in 2007 to £338 million last year.

This was partly due to films being cancelled or postponed because of the US writers' strike, but the exchange rate also played a role, the council said, with the strength of sterling in the first half of the year - 1.97 dollars to the pound in June - making it expensive for US studios to invest in the UK.

The collapse of the pound in the second half of the year may attract more investment from across the Atlantic.

Total spending on making feature films in the UK was down nearly a quarter on 2007's total of £753 million.

Spending on films made by UK production companies rose in 2008, but the council is predicting a tough year ahead for the independent sector as the recession bites and funding becomes scarce.

John Woodward, the UK Film Council's chief executive officer, said tax breaks offered to film-makers in parts of the US had also put pressure on the UK industry. "This year has got off to a great start for British films and talent at the awards ceremonies," he said. "But we will also begin to see the full effects of the economic situation take their toll on independent British movies," he added.

Big productions such as the new Harry Potter film, and a version of Gulliver's Travels which will start shooting in April, would give the industry a lift, he said.