|Cinema of Hungary|
|No. of screens||411 (2011)|
|• Per capita||4.5 per 100,000 (2011)|
|Main distributors||Intercom 18.0%|
Forum Hungary 12.0%
Cirko Gejzír 10.0%
|Produced feature films (2010)|
|Number of admissions (2010)|
|• Per capita||0.95 (2012)|
|National films||388,439 (4.2%)|
|Gross box office (2010)|
|Total||HUF 10.6 billion (~€33.9 million)|
|National films||HUF 372 million (~€1.2 million) (3.5%)|
|Cinema of Hungary|
|List of Hungarian films|
Hungary has had a notable cinema industry since the beginning of the 20th century, including Hungarians who affected the world of motion pictures both within and beyond the country's borders. The former could be characterized by directors István Szabó, Béla Tarr, or Miklós Jancsó; the latter by William Fox and Adolph Zukor, the founders of Fox Studios and Paramount Pictures respectively, or Alexander Korda, who played a leading role in the early period of British cinema. Examples of successful Hungarian films include Merry-go-round, Mephisto, Werckmeister Harmonies and Kontroll.
Hungarian cinema began in 1896, when the first screening of the films of the Lumière Brothers was held on the 10th of May in the cafe of the Royal Hotel of Budapest. In June of the same year, Arnold and Zsigmond Sziklai opened the first Hungarian movie theatre on 41 Andrássy Street named the Okonograph, where they screened Lumière films using French machinery. The inhabitants of the elite neighborhood were opposed to this new form of entertainment, and the theatre soon closed. But film screenings in cafés, the centers of Budapest's public life, were becoming more and more widespread, and by 1911, over 100 movie theater operated in the capital.
The first film shooting took place also in 1896, recording the festivities of the Millennium Celebration. Employees of the Lumiéres recorded the march at the Buda Castle. The first Hungarian cameraman was Zsigmond Sziklai.
The first consciously made Hungarian film was 'A Tánc' (The Dance) directed by Béla Zsitkovszky, made for one of the shows at the Uránia Scientific Theatre. Gyula Pekár asked for a moving picture from Béla Zsitovszky, the projectionist of the Uránia. Zsitovszky, originally an optician, shot the picture on the roof terrace of the theatre with renowned actors and ballerinas of the Operaház Theatre. The 24 cinematographic short-films were premiered on 30 April 1901.
The infrastructure of the Hungarian cinema scene was built up during the first decade of the 20th century. By 1910, 270 permanent theatres operated in the country, including large capacity film palaces like the Royal Apollo. Film distribution was organized by the end of the decade. The first company to lend the film-shooting apparatus was the Projectograph, founded by Mór Ungerleider in 1908. The company also shot films, offering documentaries and newsreels, thereby making the first steps for the country's film industry.
The literary and artistic scene enthusiastically supported the new form of expression. Writers of the Nyugat circle saw filmmaking as a sign of closing up to modern European Literature and became avid movie theatergoers. Frigyes Karinthy even became a dramaturg to Alexander Korda, the first prominent director and movie critic.
As early critics found most of the films vulgar, boring, and frivolous, film-makers stressed the informative, educational virtues of the technology as pushed by the Hunnia Studio, founded in 1911, formed as an offshoot of the Vígszínház theatre.
A characteristic style of early Hungarian cinema was the cinema sketch, a hybrid form of theatre and film. Each short projection was followed or interrupted by live stage actors, often acting their own characters from the screen. The genre inspired many prominent writers of the time, including Ferenc Molnár and Karinthy. Comedians also used this form often to perform various jokes and scenes utilizing its hybrid nature, one well-known performer being Gyula Gózon.
Mór Undergleider also started a professional journal on the subject of cinema, called Mozgófénykép Híradó (News of Moving Picture). The journal published articles of numerous renowned writers, theatrical directors, aestheticans, and scientists, including the pioneering film-theory articles of the 18-year-old Alexander Korda. However, the theoretical forebodings and possibilities outlined in Mozgófénykép Híradó were not realized later on by the country's slowly unfolding film production.
From March to August of 1919, under the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, the Hungarian cinema industry was the first one to be nationalized fully. The journal Vörös Film (Red film) was started to popularize the shift. A number of filmmakers welcomed the change, as the government provided protection against competing for foreign movies.
The aftermath of the First World War left the sprouting Hungarian movie industry in ruins. Native experts of the field, like directors Michael Curtiz or Alexander Korda left the country during or after the disarray, often making significant career abroad, like in Hollywood. During the twenties, foreign (mostly American) companies made use of the economical crisis by gaining hold of nearly all of the country's theatres. French, American, and Italian movies that had been banned during the war were all over Hungarian screens, leaving little ground for Hungarian productions. The few companies that operated at the time, like the Corvina Studio, drifted towards bankruptcy.
The downfall was avoided largely by government support and protective laws. 1925 saw the creation of the Hungarian Movie Industry Fund, and a new law forced distributors to finance a Hungarian movie after every 30 imported ones. Theatres were forced to air the newsreels created by the Office of Hungarian Film. In 1929 the government of István Bethlen began to tax imported movies (enriching the Industry Fund), but the fee was significantly lowered for companies that produced Hungarian movies; even a short movie was awarded 20 tax-free film imports.
The Movie Industry Fund bought the bankrupt Corvina Studio in 1927, founding the Hunnia Movie Company with the intention to produce full-length feature films. The studio became the cornerstone for professionals in the following years. Its mission became difficult with the economic crisis of 1929 and the spreading of costly sound film, needing further investments.
The movie-producing scene slowly emerged again, marked by the start of journal Filmkultúra with editor Andor Lajtha in 1928. Newer technology from Vienna started appearing, leaving room for innovation: with the Projektophone, Dénes Mihály became one of the many inventors of loud film, but he was unable to sell the patent. During the shooting of Csak egy kislány van a világon, crew members were able to borrow equipment from Fox Movietone News, whose employees worked in Budapest that day, recording a few musical and speaking scenes. While the movie was one of the last silent ones, ironically, it also became the first to use voice. The first voiced movie screening was held on 30 September 1929 in the Puskin Theater, presenting the American film The Singing Fool). Voiced, speaking scenes were inserted in more and more films, like in Mihály Kertész's Noah's Ark, which featured a narrated introduction. The first full-length film with sound was Hunnia Film Studio's 1931 movie Kék Bálvány.
Because of its reputedly alien American storyline and setting Kék Bálvány was only a mild success, unlike Hyppolit, a lakáj, which premiered only two months later, and became the first box office hit, as well as one of the most successful and well-known motion pictures of the country. Directed by István Székely, who was called back from Berlin for the job, the movie's comedic tone and bourgeois setting became a standard for native film production in the following ten years. Actors like Pál Jávor and Gyula Kabos became sought-after performers, appearing in nearly every major production of the decade. As sound film enabled more natural performances, popular stage actors became more attracted to the big screen, however, many of them could not adapt to the different working conditions, or to the new phenomena of the 'filmstar,' a life with pressure from the media and fans.
By 1932, over 500 theatres operated in the country, a quarter of them located in Budapest. Support for sound playback was spreading, with around half of the venues owning the needed devices. The maximum timeframe of the shooting was 12 days, after which the producing company fined the director for each additional day. After the problems of the 1920s, Hungarian film production boomed in the 1930s, rising from 6 films in 1932 to a peak of 36 in 1937.
From 1935 onwards, far-right-wing groups were formed throughout the country. They criticized the movie industry as being "infested with Jews" and its products "containing obscene, unmoral content". The number of protests were increasing, and premiers were disrupted, like in the case of Lovagias Ügy. As Horthy's government formed increasingly closer ties with Nazi Germany, the press also started to put pressure on Jewish cast members. Article XV., the first "Jew law" introduced in 1938, enforced a 6% maximum on Jews in the Film Guild. Later anti-semitic laws restricted Jews from being directors, performers, screenwriters or managers of film studios, film distribution companies, and theatres. This made work nearly impossible for a large number of film-makers and actors, and many of them, like Gyula Kabos, fled the country. The Second World War slowly showed its signs in the country with an increasing number of air raids and bombings, making film production extremely difficult. In the final years of the war, only a handful of movies were made, most of them being slap-dash works. During the war, movie theatres did not play American and Soviet features, so industry professionals and selected audiences could watch films like Gone with the Wind only a small, hidden, makeshift screenings for high prices.
The War had caused huge damage to industry property, but production work resumed relatively early, in 1945. Three movies were produced that year, the most prominent of these new ventures being Márton Keleti's A Tanítónő. They attempted to resurrect the production and story mechanisms of pre-war cinema, with private investments and old story schemes, but their failure seemed to prove that audience needs were changed and the small number of new cinemas will not provide enough revenue. The private sector slowly backed off from film production, resulting in no Hungarian films being made in 1946. Work resumed in 1947, with the government proposing a 200.000 Ft aid to film-producing companies (the average budget of a movie being 500.000 Ft). Companies were started, but most of them were backed by political forces. Mezei próféta was financed by the Peasant Party, Könnyű múzsa by the Independent Smallholders' Party, Valahol Európában by the Communist Party, and Beszterce ostroma by the Social Democratic Party. Signaling the fierce situation, many of these movies were banned, causing moral and financial loss to targeted factions.
Most of the films from this transitional period continued the tradition of literary adaptations, but a number of them tried to introduce some sort of social criticism. Two notable pictures were the realist Valahol Európában by Géza Radványi and Ének a búzamezőkről by István Szőts. The latter movie had a smaller influence on the industry as it was banned in 1948 until the seventies.
21 March 1948 became a turning point for cinema production as the state began to nationalize certain parts of the industry, with several further steps in 1948–49 resulting in a total takeover.