The Uránia National Film Theatre is unique among Hungarian cinemas as it is the only national film and cultural centre operating as an institute. It is the film profession’s counterpart of the National Theatre and the Opera House, of which most important task is to present and show the treasures of contemporary and classical film art as well as organising film clubs, national and international film festivals, and other events.
The construction of the Uránia's building was finished in the mid-1890s on today's Rákóczi avenue. The design of the palace incorporates the Venetian Gothic and the Eastern Moorish styles. The architect was originally commissioned to create a music and dance hall which opened as a cabaret called Oroszi Caprice.
At the turn of the century, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences initiated a search for a theatre where the Uránia Scientific Society could hold presentations illustrated by moving pictures. Hence the building was rented from 1899 by the Uránia Society and was given the name Uránia Hungarian Scientific Theatre.
Birthplace of the Hungarian Cinema
A significant event in Uránia’s history was in 1901 when the first Hungarian feature film was shot on the rooftop of the building, directed by photographer Béla Zsitkovszky, at that time the projectionist of Urania. The legendary The Dance featured 24 episodes from the history of dance, performed by famous actors and actresses.
Birth of Hungarian film – The Dance, 1901
The first directed Hungarian film footage shot with actors introduced the history of dance in 1901. The creative animation short film (with English subtitles) uses surviving photographs to bring the lost footage to life:
The Uránia's interior was first revamped in 1917, to make its halls suitable for film screenings. In 1930 it became a UFA Cinema, modelled on the Berlin Universum Film AG. In February 1945, the first Budapest screening after World War II was held here, and the film theatre became one of the capital’s favourites again.
In 2002, the authorities responsible for culture restored the more than 100 year old building to its original beauty. Two chamber halls holding 60 people were constructed to add to the Main Hall holding 425 people in the Uránia building.
In 2006, the Uránia National Film Theatre was awarded the European Union’s monument protection prize, Europa Nostra, for outstanding monument restoration. Budapest’s most beautiful film theatre welcomes film and cinema lovers, playing host to film festivals, special presentations, and other prestigious professional film events.