Country Focus: Hungary
Arthouse cinemas on the brink
by Fabien Lemercier
- The Europa Cinemas conference held in Paris from November 22 to 25 provided the occasion to review the exhibition sector in Hungary. According to Tibor Bíró who manages the Urania and the Beke in Miskolc, "arthouse cinemas have maintained their admissions at the same level as 2011 in a receding national market. But these results could be even better if we could programme more Hungarian films. Automatic aids to exhibition were suspended for about two years, which led nine arthouse cinemas from the country's 44 to close down. We are waiting for the situation to be completely resolved in 2013 with the resumption of these automatic aids, but progress has already been made this year, notably with an emergency aid to arthouse cinemas (€7,000 maximum per screen) released during the first trimester. The process of transforming the national cinematic industry is not yet over, and the first significant results for the new system for support to production are not expected before 2013 - 2014. Exhibitors and the public are waiting for Hungarian films with potential, which really lack at the moment."
"Cinema digitisation picked up pace this year. The largest chain of multiplexes (Cinema City), one that clearly dominates the market, equipped all its screens at the beginning of the year. The ministry realised the urgency of the situation and helped ten arthouse cinemas to equip themselves this year, with 75% of funding from the state and 25% from local groups. Ten other cinemas should soon be helped in the same way and, if the initiative continues next year, all cinemas should be digitised by the end of 2013. In exchange for this aid, the cinemas commit to remaining arthouse cinemas for at least two years. You have to know that most arthouse establishments cannot pay for their equipment because their receipts are too low and banks don't lend them money. What is more, at the moment, about 90% of films are only available as digital copies from distributors, and cinemas unable to equip themselves rapidly will not be able to maintain their programming and will have to close."
Eva Vezer, expert on the Hungarian industry for Europa Cinemas, added to this analysis: "Aids to distribution were suspended for two years, so very few non-national European films came out. And as national production had completely stopped, film offer in cinemas was extremely limited. The situation of cinemas fighting for their survival is starting to improve, but European support via Europa Cinemas and to distributors through the MEDIA Programme is vital."