Those Who Remained by Barnabás Tóth, photo: Inforg-M&M FilmMARKET ANALYSIS 2020

    BUDAPEST: The year 2020 started as a good one. The National Film Institute – Hungary (NFI) was established in January 2020 as the successor of the Hungarian National Film Fund, and Barnabás Tóth's historical drama Those Who Remained / Akik maradtak, produced by Inforg-M&M Film, got on the short list in the Academy Awards' International Feature Film category. The film didn't make it into the nominations' list and with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic the Hungarian film industry faced serious challenges.

    Luckily, there was also good news. Kornel Mundruczó's first English language film Pieces of a Woman, produced by BRON Studios (Canada) in coproduction witth Little Lamb (Canada) and Proton Cinema (Hungary), was invited into the main competition of the Venice Film Festival, and it is among the Academy Awards 2021 contenders for a nomination in various categories.

    Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time / Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre, directed by Lili Horvát and produced by Poste Restante, has been invited to many festivals and the star of the film Natasa Stork has been collecting awards.

    PRODUCTIONPieces of a Woman by Kornél Mundruczó, source: Venice FF

    The National Film Institute – Hungary (NFI) was established in January 2020 as the successor of the Hungarian National Film Fund. The previous grant systems were unified, since in 2020 not only feature films, but also documentaries, television and short films were supported by the NFI. As part of its new policy, the NFI wants to put greater emphasis on coproductions.

    In 2020 the NFI gave out 21.6 m EUR / 7.7 billion HUF to 185 feature film applications, and 19.1 m EUR / 6.8 billion HUF to television and streaming projects. Ten films supported by the NFI debuted in cinemas and festivals in 2020.

    The production of 12 Hungarian feature films supported by the NFI started and finished in 2020. The pandemic caused the biggest problem for the romantic fantasy film Half Way Home / Átjáróház directed by Isti Madarász and produced by FocusFox. With the introduction of the state of emergency the shooting had to be stopped in March 2020, and it could only continue in June 2020. Half Way Home tells the story of two lovers who get stuck between life and death.

    The filming of the thriller The Game / A játszma, helmed by Péter Fazakas and produced by Filmpositive, came to an end in 2020. The film continues the story of the spies introduced in the hit film The Exam / A vizsga (2011) by Péter Bergendy, produced by Unió film, and is set six years later, in 1963, when the Hungarian secret service starts a more twisted and more dangerous game than ever before.

    Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time by Lili HorvátGabor Fabricius’s debut feature Erasing Frank / Eltörölni Frankot, produced by Otherside Stories in coproduction with Frank Production, will also take the audience back to the communist era, showing how psychiatric institutions used to oppress the enemies of the state.

    Academy Award-winner Kristóf Deák finished shooting The Grandson / Az unoka, a thriller and coming-of-age film with shades of black comedy produced by Flashback Media. The film follows a 28 year old office worker Rudi, who takes the law into his own hands after realising that his beloved grandfather was a victim of a cruel fraud.

    The principal photography of Daddy and Other Wolves / Szia, Életem as well as Stop My Stepmom! / El a kezekkel a papámtól! went underway in the summer of 2020. The first depicts the changing life of a popular but burned out writer, who meets his little son for the first time. This comedy is directed by Gábor Rohonyi and Csaba Vékes, and produced by Filmteam in coproduction with Blue Duck Arts and Grund. The latter is a big-budget family film with music and fantasy elements. It is directed by Kata Dobó and Buda Gulyás, and produced by Megafilm.

    Ádám Császi finished shooting his sophomore feature Three Thousand Numbered Pieces / Háromezer számozott darab, a mix of fiction, absurdity and sociographic reality, produced by Unió Film. It depicts the fate of young Romany people whose lives have been in a free fall.

    Four young directors were given the opportunity to realise their first long film. Szilárd Bernáth’s Larry, produced by Focus Fox, follows the career of a rapper coming from a tough neighborhood and fighting with serious stuttering. Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous / Veszélyes lehet a fagyi, directed by Fanni Szilágyi and produced by Filmpartners, is a magical realistic drama about a pair of identical twins who became estranged from each other.

    Cristina Groșan`s Things Worth Weeping For / A legjobb dolgokon bőgni kell, produced by Laokoon Film, follows a 30 years old woman who is trying to find out what she really wants from life during a long night, while Máté Fazekas' Eviction / Kilakoltatás, produced by FP Films in coproduction with Sparks and Filmfabriq, is a satirical comedy and shows a conflict between a bum-bailiff and an old lady who doesn't want to leave her home.The Grandson by Kristóf Deák shooting

    Production on Filmfabriq’s The Christmas Flame / Nagykarácsony started at the end of 2020 and the works are underway in the first months of 2021. Dániel Tiszeker is making an uplifting and emotional Christmas film about a fireman.

    The production of Katinka, the most expensive Hungarian documentary film ever, didn't halt during the spring lockdown and the shooting continues in 2021. Directed by Norbert Pálinkás and produced by Szupermodern, the documentary follows the preparations of the three-time Olympic champion Katinka Hosszú for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

    In 2020 the NFI, which is more supportive of coproductions than its predecessor, backed eight coproductions, including Anthony Fabian's Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, produced by Moonriver Content (UK) in coproduction with Superbe Films (France) and Hero Squared (Hungary), where Budapest doubles for the French capital. Lesley Manville and Isabelle Huppert, as well as Lucas Bravo and Baptista Alba are starring.

    The filming of Gentle Monster / Jámbor szörnyeteg produced by FocusFox (Hungary) in coproduction with Komplizen Film (Germany) started in November 2020. László Csuja and Anna Nemes tell the tragic story of a woman bodybuilder who gets into a love triangle. The Hungarian/Vietnamese coproduction Budapest, Where the Love Starts / Budapest, ahol a szerelem kezdődik, produced by Solve Art, finished the Hungarian segment of the shooting in November 2020 and is aiming for a March 2021 shooting in Hanoi, Vietnam.

    The following coproductions with minority Hungarian participation also received production grants in 2020: Scirocco directed by Yassine Marco Marroccu and produced by Eclipse Film (Morocco) in coproduction with Mirage Film (Hungary); Black Spider directed by Markus Fischer and produced by Snakefilm (Switzerland) in coproduction with Laokoon Cinema (Hungary); John Vardar vs. Galaxy directed by Gore Cvetanovski and produced by Lynx Animation (North Gentle Monster by Anna Nemes, László Csuja, photo by Sándor BaskiMacedonia) in coproduction with Umatik (Hungary); The Servant directed by Marian Crișan and produced by Rova Film (Romania) in coproduction with Chainsaw Europe (Romania) and Focus Fox (Hungary); Battle: Freestyle directed by Ingvild Soderling and produced by Friland Produksjon (Norway) in coproduction with Proton Projekt (Hungary).

    Independent productions were also shooting in 2020. György Pálfi finished his long gestating project, the dystopian love story For Ever / Mindörökké, produced by KMH Film. Most of the film was shot in 2015 and a couple of additional scenes were shot in 2020. Moreover, György Pálfi also made a low budget action film in 2020, Hotel Balaton (KMH Film), starring the International Emmy-winner Marina Gera.

    Hungary became popular with foreign productions thanks to the world-class studios, the experienced local crews, the 30% tax rebate and the unique qualities of Budapest. It is the second most popular location for Hollywood films in Europe, after London. In 2019, which was a record breaking year, the amount of money spent directly on film productions (460.7 m EUR / 164.4 billion HUF) increased by 40% compared to 2018.

    The year 2020 showed a significant decline because of the pandemic. The NFI reacted quickly to the new challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing safety regulations and easing the entry of US cast members. Due to these measures, productions only stopped for a few months in the spring of 2020 and they could resume work in June 2020. The second wave reached Hungary in the autumn, but it didn’t interrupt the ongoing shootings.

    The principal photography of Dune, produced by Legendary Entertainment in coproduction with Warner Bros. was practically completed in 2019, but the director Denis Villeneuve and his crew came back to shoot a few additional scenes at the Origo studios in the summer of 2020.

    The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent directed by Tom Gormican, produced by Lionsgate in coproduction with Saturn Films, and starring Nicholas Cage, as well as the ballet drama Birds of Paradise directed by Sarah Adina Smith and produced by Amazon Studios in coproduction with Anonymous Content, also chose Origo and were able to resume work in August 2020. The production of Birds of Paradise had halted in March 2020.

    The sci-fi television series Halo directed by Otto Bathurst and produced by Microsoft in coproduction with Showtime Networks went into production in 2019 and continued in 2020 at the Korda Studios

    State-owned Mafilm Studios serviced the German Netflix series Terra Vision directed by Robert Thalheim.Budapest, Where the Love Starts by Dóra Szűcs, credit: Kata Soós

    Sensing the increasing demand, the NFI started to significantly expand the Mafilm Studios, and the four new studios will be fully operational in 2022.


    The National Film Institute - Hungary has been working on job opportunities for film professionals during the pandemic. The evaluation of applications was continuous and no shooting failed because they rescheduled the financing of the ongoing productions at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.

    Hungary didn’t ban shootings with the introduction of the state of emergency. The work could resume but the crew had to follow strict health protection measures. The NFI published a health protection plan helping the productions. The casts and crews were tested regularly, protective equipment was provided for everybody, the number of people on location was minimised and compliance with hygiene rules was monitored.

    The Hungarian film industry reacted quickly to the challenges caused by the pandemic and the local studios introduced an effective anti-COVID protocol. When the European Union banned the entry of non-EU residents in June 2020, Hungary granted special exemptions to US casts and crews, making it possible to restart production at full capacity. After the spring shutdown, Hungary was one of the first countries where foreign productions came back and resumed work.

    The enterprises in the film industry were fully exempted from paying taxes based on their wages for a limited time. The measure was taken to ease the crisis caused by the Coronavirus. The National Film Institute - Hungary was granted 1 billion HUF by the National Cultural Council as part of their financial package compensating the difficulties of the cultural sphere. The fund was allocated to help theatres and filmmakers, and it was used to produce „crossover” films based on stage plays and filmed outside the theatres.

    Stop My Stepmom! by Kata Dobó and Buda GulyásDISTRIBUTION

    Intercom is the leading distribution company in Hungary. In 2020 Intercom had 13 films in cinemas, of which three got into the top ten. The biggest success of the year Bad Boys For Life, and the most watched Hungarian feature film Budapest Heist / Pesti Balhé directed by Balázs Lóth and produced by FP Films, were also distributed by Intercom.

    UIP Duna Film released nine films, four of which entered the top ten. None of them was Hungarian. Forum Hungary and Freeman Film also deal mainly with foreign titles. Mozinet, the biggest distributor of art house films, released eight titles in 2020, including one domestic title - Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time / Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre directed by Lili Horvát and produced by Poste Restante.

    Magyarhangya, Cirko Film and Budapest Film also specialised in art house films.

    The domestic surprise hit of 2019, Those Who Remained / Akik maradtak directed by Barnabás Tóth and produced by Inforg-M&M Film, has been sold by NFI World Sales to many countries, including the United States (Menemsha Films), where it was released on 21 February 2020, and Japan (Synca) with the release date of 18 December 2020.

    Numerous prestigious film festivals had Hungarian titles in their programme. Kornél Mundruczó’s first English language feature Pieces of Woman was invited to the main competition of the 77th Venice Film Festival, where Vanessa Kirby won the Coppa Volpi for best actress. The drama was produced by BRON Studios (Canada) in coproduction with Little Lamb (Canada) and Proton Cinema (Hungary).

    Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time also had its world premiere in Venice, followed by its North American premiere at the Toronto IFF. Lili Horvath’s film was eventually selected as Hungary's candidate for the 93rd Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award in the Best International Feature Film category. The film was released in the USA by Greenwich Entertainment on 22 January 2021.Three Thousand Numbered Pieces by Ádám Császi shooting

    The presence of Hungarian titles at the Warsaw Film Festival was even bigger than usual, with world premieres of Spiral directed by Cecilia Felméri and produced by Hungary’s Inforg M&M Film in coproduction with Hungary’s FocusFox Studio and Romania’s Hai-Hui Entertainment, Post Mortem directed by Péter Bergendy and produced by Szupermodern, and Seven Small Coincidences / Hét kis véletlen directed by Péter Gothár and produced by Filmpartners.

    Nadja Andrasev’s short film Symbiosis was invited to many festivals and among other awards it was chosen as the best short animation at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas (USA), qualifing for the 2021 Academy Awards in the best live action short film category.


    The number of officially registered cinemas in 2020 was 221 and the number of screens was 469.

    The Hungarian domestic box office fell by 62% in 2020. The total gross of Hungarian films was 2.3 m EUR / 838 m HUF in 2019, but it fell to 888,126 EUR / 320.1 m HUF in 2020.

    Budapest Heist by Balázs LóthThe admissions dropped from 595,587 in 2019 to 224,763 in 2020.

    The number of domestic premieres also decreased from 26 in 2019 to 16 in 2020.

    The year 2020 was a nightmare for Hungarian cinemas, which had to close two times because of the pandemic, first on 11 March followed by a re-opening during the second half of June. Operations had to be suspended again on 11 November. Cinemas were closed for five months, and it isn’t certain when they will re-open in 2021. The National Film Institute - Hungary supported cinema operators with 834,600 EUR / 300 m HUF within the “Back to the Cinema – Watch Hungarian Films in July” initiative.

    Many films, some with great gross expectations, were postponed for 2021, including Toxikoma directed by Gábor Herendi and produced by TulipánTündér Produkció, Bullhorn Lullaby / Becsúszó szerelem directed by Viktor Oszkár Nagy and produced by Campfilm, and Perfect as You Are / Így vagy tökéletes directed by Péter Varsics and produced by Szupermodern.

    The biggest Hungarian success of 2020 was Budapest Heist / Pesti balhé directed by Balázs Lóth and produced by FP Films. The heist comedy, which was released by InterCom on 30 July, grossed 304,441 EUR / 109.7 m HUF and racked up 74,008 admissions. To put it into perspective, a similarly lighthearted film, Kölcsönlakás directed by Kata Dobó, produced by Kölcsönlakás produkció and distributed by Intercom, topped the domestic chart in 2019 with 607,262 EUR / 218.9 m HUF and 150,776 admissions.

    A couple other Hungarian films from 2020 are worth mentioning in terms of gross. Oscar-winner István Szabó's supposedly farewell film Final Report / Zárójelentés, produced by Film Street and Filmkontroll, and released by InterCom on 27 February, ended its run with 121,809 EUR / 43.9 m HUF and 33,255 admissions, while the romantic comedy Cream / Hab directed by Nóra Lakos, produced by AGA Media and A Company Hungary, and released by InterCom on 10 September, collected 102,744 EUR / 37 m HUF and 26,271 admissions.

    Hungary's official bid at the Academy Awards, Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time / Felkészülés meghatározatlan idejű együttlétre, released by Mozinet on 24 September 2020, reached 77,222 EUR / 27.8 m HUF and 19,430 admissions by the time cinemas closedLarry by Szilárd Bernáth, photo: LarryFilm Facebook again in November 2020.

    The general box office suffered an even bigger blow and decreased by 70.1% from 2019 to 2020. The total gross was 59.2 m EUR / 21.3 billion HUF in 2019, and only 17.7 m EUR / 6.4 billion HUF in 2020.

    A total of 293 films came out in 2019, but only 89 were theatrically released in 2020.

    The American action comedy Bad Boys for Life was the highest grossing film in 2020, with 1.6 m EUR / 570.7 m HUF and 345,915 admissions.


    Online distribution saw a breakthrough in 2020. Three new domestic streaming services were launched and an unprecedented number of Hungarian titles became available online.

    Budapest Film reacted to the closing down of cinemas with the launch of Remote Cinema on 21 April 2020, a pay-per-view live streaming platform specifically designed to fill in for real cinema experiences. Unlike usual video on-demand customers, Remote Cinema’s online viewers can’t save or download, rewind or pause the show. They purchase their tickets for a particular time and date and watch the film as a community. Seven Small Coincidences directed by Péter Gothár and produced by Filmpartners, screened for the first time in Hungary on Remote Cinema.

    Cinego, the only domestic streaming platform specialised in art house titles, was launched in May 2020. It offers titles from the selections of the top festivals as well as remarkable Hungarian films from the last couple of years. A total of 280 feature films are currently available, of which 38 are Hungarian. Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time went online on 1 December 2020 and became the most popular domestic title of the year on Cinego.

    Christmas Flame by Dániel Tiszeker, photo: Takács AttilaOn 19 November 2020 the NFI launched Filmio, a platform streaming Hungarian films. More than 230 productions were made available, including 169 feature films, 50 animated films and 11 documentaries. "We've repaid an old debt with launching Filmio," Hungary's Film Commissioner Csaba Káel said in a statement. "A platform was missing where the audience could find a significant part of the Hungarian film production in one package, legally and in excellent quality''.

    Treasure City / Békeidő directed by Szabolcs Hajdu and produced by Látókép Production became the first Hungarian feature film that skipped theatrical release and immediately debuted online. The film could be rented on Vimeo starting 23 April 2020. Between six and seven thousand people watched it in the first four days, according to its director Szabolcs Hajdu.

    Netflix dominates the local market, like in the rest of the world. Hungarian subscribers, who can currently choose from 45 domestic titles, spent 4.5 as much time watching Netflix in 2020 as in 2019. Mihály Schwechtje's first feature film I Hope You'll Die Next Time / Remélem legközelebb sikerül meghalnod, produced by Amego Film, was one of the most popular choices in the thriller category.

    Unlike in Poland, Netflix didn’t start investing money into local productions, but bought the distribution rights of Kornel Mundruczo’s first English language film Pieces of a Woman. The streaming giant also bought Malcolm & Marie directed by Sam Levinson and lensed by the Hungarian cinematographer Marcell Rév.

    HBO GO has been available in Hungary since 2011 and currently offers 41 domestic productions, including 20 feature films, 18 documentaries and three series. HBO’s documentary Return to Epipo / Visszatérés Epipóba by Judit Oláh, which tackles the sensitive topic of child abuse at a summer camp, was the most popular Hungarian title on HBO GO in 2020.Natasa Stork  in Ice Cream Could Be Dangerous by Fanni Szilágyi, photo: Janka Pozsonyi


    In 2020 the Decision Making Board of the National Film Institute – Hungary granted 21.6 m EUR / 7.7 billion HUF as production grants. A total of 300 feature film applications were processed, 185 were backed and 27 projects were given production support. Eleven feature films were granted marketing support.

    The NFI announced nine new applications for television and streaming productions. Almost 1,700 applications were sent in and the Television Decision Making Board supported 158 applications and granted 19.1 m EUR / 6.8 billion HUF for television films, series, animations, educational films and documentaries.

    A new type of tender was introduced by the NFI for supporting theatres in 2020. Sixteen theatres received funds to make „crossover” films based on plays with the cooperation of the film industry.


    RTL Hungary and TV2 Media Group can both consider their main channels (RTL Klub and TV2) the winners of 2020. According to Media1, RTL Klub had the most viewers in prime-time and TV2 won based on the whole day ratings.

    The yearly top 20 chart of television programmes, based on the 18-49 age group, includes ten RTL Klub and eight TV2 programmes. These are both commercial channels, while the public Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Anthony Fabian shooting, photo: Hero Squaredservice media had only two programmes in the top 20. RTL Klub topped the chart with a reality singing competition The Masked Singer.

    Side Effect / Mellékhatás by Dániel Richárd Kovács, RTL Klub's first thriller series based on an original idea, started to air on 4 April 2020. The first episode became the ninth most watched programme in 2020.

    RTL Klub also introduced a comedy series called Apatigris directed by Attila Herczeg, the first episode finishing in the sixth place in the yearly top 20 chart.

    It was announced in 2020 that Hungary's longest running soap opera Barátok közt will come to an end in 2021. The first episode was aired in 1998 on RTL Klub.

    TV2 had new comedy series in 2020: Egyszer volt Budán Bödör Gáspár directed by Márk Radnai, and Doktor Balaton helmed by multiple directors. The first started very promising and the pilot was the third most watched programme in 2020. Both channels made their own fictional lockdown mini-series depicting life during the pandemic. RTL Klub produced Segítség! Itthon vagyok! directed by Iván Kapitány, while TV2 named its programme #maradjotthon, and they both aired during the spring of 2020.


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    Report by Denes Varga (2021)