Fascinating flicks from Hungary and far beyond shine brightly in all of these special city-center cinemas, often featuring other entertaining attractions. From a century-old film palace built in grand style to an offbeat viewing venue best known nowadays for its dance parties in the lobby, we take a look at several premier places screening masterful motion pictures. (No matter which cinema you visit, before buying tickets we recommend checking at the box office to make sure that your film selection is being shown in your preferred language, or has appropriate subtitles added.)
Screen Time: 7 Budapest art-house theaters
Photo : Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum
Built in the 1890s with an enchanting blend of Venetian Gothic and Eastern Moorish architecture, this palatial cinema continually makes history – this is where Hungary’s first independent feature film was shot in 1901. Lovingly preserved since then, the Uránia houses a monumental main viewing hall and a smaller theater along with two cafés, and this is the location of many major Hungarian film festivals; sometimes it even serves as a concert venue.
As evidenced by the photo above, the Toldi is now more widely regarded as a nightclub than as a movie theater – every evening the lobby bar is crowded with chatting friends that have no intention of seeing a film, while live bands or DJ sets get the scene grooving here every weekend. Nonetheless, this is a dependable place to catch newly released international movies in addition to super-local productions like animations made by Magyar art students.
With its gilded statuary and marble columns, this classic cinema is almost as historic as the Uránia – when it was constructed in 1926, this was Europe’s largest movie house. The theater’s majesty has faded somewhat since then, but the Puskin remains as an excellent destination for watching new independent films, high-definition opera performances, and groundbreaking blockbusters, with creative screening series like “Spielberg vs. Scorsese”.
Serving as the nation’s primary showcase of Magyar-made movies dating from the earliest days of cinema to modern times, this recently renovated theater provides rare opportunities to see significant Hungarian films from decades past; unfortunately, they are not always shown with English subtitles. However, the Örökmozgó also hosts frequent screening series of new productions from other countries around the globe, played in their original language.
Behind the skewed marquee above Budapest’s most popular art-house theater, many of the world’s most eagerly anticipated new releases brighten the faces of Magyar cinephiles and foreign residents watching avant-garde films screened in their original languages. The funky atmosphere of the lobby café (complete with swirling mosaics and artworks made with found objects like boots and doll heads) reflects the eclectic spirit of the movies screened here.
More of a neighborhood hangout than a cinema, this pleasant place overlooks the Vígszínház and a small plaza that provides plentiful terrace seating here in summer, but this is a great destination for dining or drinks year-round. Open daily from 9am to midnight, Kino serves breakfast, toasted sandwiches, salads, and snacks along with a huge selection of coffees, soft drinks, and fine Hungarian wines, so the small movie theater is like a big bonus.
The self-declared “smallest cinema in Europe” is tucked within a building near Pest’s waterfront not far from the Parliament House, but despite its diminutive size the Cirko-Gejzír screens big winners of prestigious international film festivals, along with experimental Hungarian movies and flicks that are too edgy for most multiplexes. This bijou venue still manages to find enough space to occasionally host intriguing exhibitions and concerts.