23 February 2018

The Year Hungarian Films Packed Local Cinemas

In recent years the box office of Hungarian films has started to show signs of life: ‘White God’ was a nice surprise and ‘Son of Saul’ became the hit no one saw coming - these and a few others foreshadowed what 2017 proved to be true: Hungarian audiences are hungry for local movies.

In 2017, a total of 1.3 million tickets to Hungarian film screenings in local cinemas were sold, which is a 9% market share – a huge improvement from recent years. Even better: this is not a result of just one movie over performing, as a total of four have crossed the magical 100 000 mark!

The romantic period movie ‘Kincsem – Bet on Revenge’ became just as invincible as its title character, the unbeatable 19-century horse. Directed by Gábor Herendi, the helmer of some of the most successful comedies of the past two decades (the first two ‘A Kind of America’ movies and ‘Hungarian Vagabond’), the horse-racing love story became the most successful Hungarian film of the past ten years and the seventh most-watched movie since 1989. ‘Kincsem – Bet on Revenge’ also ranks high on the overall 2017 box office list, placing third, behind only ‘Star Wars – The Last Jedi’ and ‘Despicable Me 3’.

Gábor Herendi: Kincsem - Bet on Revenge

The year 2017 started well for Hungarian cinema: ‘On Body and Soul’ won the Berlinale’s Golden Bear. The movie was quickly released in cinemas, and audiences once again proved that after ‘Son of Saul’ an art-house film can indeed become a box office wonder: Ildikó Enyedi’s film is a sleeper hit as it is still in cinemas – and now, after its Oscar nomination, it is back in the top 10!

Another Berlinale favourite was released in spring, and Ferenc Török’s ‘1945’ also collected a respectable 30 000 admissions. But not every movie delivered; ‘Jupiter’s Moon’ is probably the most notable disappointment, especially after Kornél Mundruczó’s previous outing, ‘White God’. His new film only managed to collect 8 985 admissions.

‘Brazils’ debuted in April and became a sleeper hit, gathering more than 74 077 tickets in total. Directed by Csaba M. Kiss and Gábor Rohonyi, the comedy lightly deals with a serious topic (tension between the community of a small Hungarian village and its local gypsies), through soccer – what else!

Ildikó Enyedi: On Body and Soul

The musical ‘Pappa Pia’ was the summer hit it was destined to become, a light counterblast to the Hollywood blockbusters. This is the director Gábor Csupó’s first Hungarian movie in Hollywood, and the young cast performed some of the biggest musical hits of the past few decades – making the film Hungary’s answer to ‘Mamma Mia!’, if its title had not already given that away. One would think that an audience of 227 228 would be a box office king, but ‘Pappa Pia’ only reached third place in 2017.

Set in the 1930s, the thriller ‘Budapest Noir’ kicked off the autumn season for Hungarian films, and the movie – based on the first of the bestselling novel series – has now collected more than 50 000 tickets. Similarly, the new movie by Márta Mészáros sought a more mature audience, which has sold more than 60 000 tickets so far.

Three feature-length animated movies were released in cinemas in 2017. ‘Tales from the Lake’ and ‘A Heap of Croscont’ were both edited from episodes of a popular TV series. The film versions made a somewhat disappointing 13 245 and 6 372 admissions, respectively. The Israeli co-production ‘The Legend of King Solomon’ did not find its audience either, with only 8 330 viewers.

Albert Hanan Kaminski: The Legend of King Solomon

The Hungarian National Film Fund welcomed its one-millionth ticket buyer in November at a screening for ‘Budapest Noir’, but admissions for local movies grew even more, as ‘The Whiskey Robber’ was released. The action thriller set in the 1990s is based on the true story of a bank robber who became a kind of national hero as he managed to escape from the police for years, and then even fled prison. The film marked the return to Hungary for Nimród Antal, who after his cult movie ‘Control’ went to Hollywood and made films like ‘Predators’. His eagerly anticipated return and the well-known source material resulted in great numbers at the box office. ‘The Whiskey Robber’ was cleverly released three weeks before the latest Star Wars juggernaut and debuted at number 1 in late November. The total admission number is currently at 313 322.  

What’s in store for 2018?

Gábor Herendi’s ‘A Kind of America 3’ hopes to soar as high as its two predecessors (the first one had 529 187 admissions in 2002, and its sequel had 448 738 in 2008), while László Nemes’ ‘Sunset’, the follow-up to his Oscar-winning (and unlikely box office champ!) ‘Son of Saul’ is coming later in 2018. Gábor Reisz is also in post-production with his sophomore movie, the much-awaited ‘Bad Poems’. After his extra-low-budgeted debut ‘For Some Inexplicable Reason’ surprised everyone, now all eyes are on him to see if he can repeat the success. No pressure!