BUDAPEST: Hungary is facing the closure of as many as half of its art house cinemas in the next year, following the government reduction in funding for film industry activities. In 2010, 2 art house cinemas closed, leaving just 39 still operating: 12 in Budapest and 27 in other cities, mainly regional centers.
The financial basis of the cinemas was established in the 2004 Film Law which directed the Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation (MMKA, www.mmka.hu) to support the whole spectre of film culture in Hungary, including production, distribution, and exhibition.
The support for exhibitors and distributors was reduced by approximately half between 2005 and 2010, and the grants stopped in the summer of 2010 when MMKA became insolvent due to accumulated debts and the withdrawal of its funds by the Ministry of National Resources (www.nefmi.gov.hu). The art house cinemas are now trying to enforce the contracts signed almost a year ago, but even if they get their funding from MMKA, their future is insecure.
No support for the exhibition and distribution was announced for 2011. Budapest and other local municipialites have declared that they cannot fill the financial gap. In the beginning of January, as exhibitors turned to the press, several newspapers and websites began covering the issue. The government has declared that art house cinemas are important to Hungary, but has offered no solution to the problem yet.
At least some of the troubled cinemas are expected to change to typical U.S. commercial film programming. Multiplexes currently have 92% of Hungarian box office. Current prospects could see that grow to 95-98% by the end of the year as art house films disappear from cinemas.