What on earth is this movie about?

In order to understand the reality of the Budapest cinemas and to help the foreigners who live in this city and enjoy going to the movies occasionally, we decided to search for an appropriate offer in the Hungarian capital. First, we did a research on the Internet and we found that many sites didn’t have any information in English about the movies or timetables: first barrier for those who don’t speak Hungarian. Because of these technical problems we had to go to theaters and asking the employees personally, although many of them didn’t speak English so good and it was difficult to establish a conversation.

What you logically can think at first is that it would be easier to find movies in English at more alternative cinemas: the ones that are called Art cinemas. Örökmozgó, the spectacular Urania, Cirkó-Gejzír, Toldi Art Cinema, Művész, Puskin… are just some examples of where English speakers can watch more alternative, independent, old, silent and/or international movies…and understand them. In all these cinemas, most films are in Original Version with Hungarian subtitles.

Searching for Art Cinemas, we found out that some of the places didn’t screen movies since years ago, they just host theater plays, concerts, exhibitions and other cultural events. When we visited Örökmozgó, for example, at the beginning it was hard just to find it because it’s at the same place as a pizzeria. Also, the entry of Cirkó-Gejzír looked almost like a pub entry, a really small and hidden door with stairs going underground behind. The guy who sold tickets told us that “maybe, this is smallest cinema in Europe”.

On the other hand, if you want to watch the second part of The Hobbit, Thor or The Hunger Games, the last movie of Tom Hanks, enjoying a big screen, a big bag of popcorn, a big sound system, but also with a little bit more expensive price, you have other more “commercial” cinemas. The atmosphere is different, and the offer of O.V. movies isn’t that great, because most of movies are dubbed, but you still can find something for foreigners.

I discovered that watching films in Hungarian cinemas can be a huge adventure for foreigners when I visited Cinema City Arena for the first – and the last- time. I went to see the film “Gravity” in the original version with Hungarian subtitles. The movie was very boring and I got lost many times because, apart from the fact that my English is not so good, the subtitles at the bottom often distracted me.


Also, Corvin Mozi is really close to my place, so once I passed by there I just entered to take a look. When I saw how cheap were the tickets compared to Portugal, I immediately decided to watch one film that night. Among not many options in English, I chose Blue Jasmine, the last Woody Allen’s film. When the lights turned off and the movie started, there were only four people in the whole place. “How can cinemas survive with so few customers?”, I asked myself. The movie was a psychological drama, full of fast dialogues, so I understood the 70% of it, more or less. But I can’t complain about this at all, I should improve my English.

Cinema City company has a lot of theaters in Budapest, and at all of them you can find o.v. movies: Cinema City Arena, Cinema City Allee, MOM Park Cinema City, West End Cinema City, Mammut Cinema City, Campona Cinema City, Duna Plaza Cinema City. At the CINEMA CITY website we can observe they offer 27 dubbed movies, 15 subtitled movies and 1 Hungarian movie without subtitles.

So as we saw there, national movies are a minority in Hungarian cinemas. And although we asked everywhere and we checked every website, we realised that it’s very hard to find Hungarian movies with English subtitles. Perhaps there are special international events for this kind of screenings and we couldn’t find them. But it seems like foreigners only have two main options: waiting for an online version of the movies with subtitles, or learning hungarian -which is not that easy.

I only watched three Hungarian films at a theater -or something similar. The first one was The Turin Horse -A Torinói ló-, but it was at one alternative theater in Spain two years ago. The second one was Kontroll, because ESN ELTE organized a Hungarian screening for Erasmus students at the faculty -and they still organize it every week. The third one was Isteni Műszak, last week at Corvin Mozi. There weren’t subtitles, but I just went as a kind of experiment. Never again. First five minutes were really funny, last half an hour I was almost sleeping. “Why are people laughing around me now? What happened? Oh, God”.

Isteni Műszak

So, it’s not so hard going to the cinema for a foreigner! The only problem is the amount of possibilities we have once we get there: first, we usually don’t have a chance to enjoy completely a Hungarian film. Secondly, we should have a good level of English. Also, the movie might not be so good -although “good” could be a very relative word- if we visit a more “commercial” cinema, where options there are less options.

And finally, an obvious but important point we didn’t mention before: for us, the writers of this article, who are Spanish and Portuguese, and who speak English, Spanish, Portuguese and a little bit of French, if we find a movie in O.V., and it’s in Polish, Swedish, German or even French… Well, thank you for the Hungarian subtitles, but what on earth is this movie about?

Óscar Conde

Pablo Vilas


One response to “What on earth is this movie about?

  1. Pingback: To the movies we go! | Lost in Budapest, Found in a Ruin Bar·

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