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The Network - 30/07/2005


3 questions to Tibor Biró, Kossuth and Hevesy cinemas (Miskolc, Hungary)


Tibor Biró is the director of the Hevesy and Kossuth cinemas in Miskolc, the main town in Northern Hungary and the third city of the country after Budapest and Debrecen.
Apart from these two cinemas, supported by Europa Cinemas within the framework of the MEDIA programme, this 180,000 inhabitant’s university town has two multiplexes.
Since 2004, Tibor Biró has also been the director of the International Festival of Young Filmmakers, whose second edition will be held in Miskolc from October 3rd to 9th 2005, while the young Hungarian cinema doesn’t stop showing its originality even if it doesn’t really reach the European audience for the moment.
He presents his cinemas and his festival. 
Festival’s website:
Theatres’ website:

How long have you been running the Kossuth and Hevesy cinemas? What kind of activities do you organize and how do you deal with the opening of new multiplexes?

We have been operating the two cinemas Kossuth and Hevesy since 1994. We are a company 100 % belonging to the municipality. At the beginning, our company was a Ltd. and at that time we operated another cinema, which closed down when the multiplexes opened. Since 2001 we have been a non-profit company and every year we get a financial support from the municipality for the operation.
Kossuth and Hevesy are declared to be arthouse theatres. They are the only arthouse theatres in Miskolc and in Borsod Abaúj Zemplén County, too.
Our audience consists mainly of young people under 30. In Miskolc more than 10,000 young people study at the university. We regularly organize film-clubs, selections of directors’ life-works and on Sundays we have screenings for children. We have good working relations with the local schools but we could improve them in certain fields (e.g. media education).

We have organized gala premieres for some Hungarian films as well as meetings with the filmmakers. We have screenings on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer. On 24th June, on the occasion of St. Ivan’s night, we had screenings at 11 p.m. as well as at 1 a.m. And each year we organize French Film Days together with the local Alliance Française.

In 2000, when the multiplexes opened, we had 30,000 admissions. Last year 76,000 tickets were sold and the first three months of 2005 were so successful that the number of admissions was equal to the one in the first half of 2004. For instance we sold more than 7,000 tickets for the German film Downfall (Der Untergang).
The offer in the multiplexes, which consists of American and other commercial films at 99 %, can successfully be balanced by our programmes. We screen films that multiplexes do not, and some of their films are also presented in our theatres a few weeks later. In average more than 80 % of the films screened by our two theatres are ranged with art films according to the Hungarian rank.
We do not rival the two multiplexes for the programmes but we do rival for the audience and I think we are doing well. Our ticket prices are two thirds lower than the ones in multiplexes, which is very important in our region, where the economic and social situations are worse than in other parts of the country. Because of the opening of multiplexes, traditional cinemas receive American hits only a few weeks after the multiplexes. We try to do our best to overtake this drawback by offering only one or two important films of their programmes.

Fortunately the audience comes to our theatres to see valuable productions instead of American mass-films. According to the experience of multiplexes they do not achieve great success in presenting European or Hungarian productions. They try to present some of them from time to time but their audiences do not want to see these films and they have to remove them from their programmes very soon often after a week.
Unfortunately we received Fateless [a film by Lajos Koltai based on Imre Kertesz’ work] only weeks after multiplexes had presented it. We would have been inclined to pay the production costs of an extra copy in advance but the distributor refused our request. Although we screened it some weeks later, we had a lot of spectators, especially schoolchildren and students.

According to the latest statistics our theatre is the second most successful provincial cinema not counting multiplexes. As compared to only arthouse theatres it is the most successful one. In 2004 we renewed our auditoriums with subsidies worth € 255.000 from the government and municipality. New chairs, projectors, screens and sound systems were built in.
Last year somebody wanted to buy it but fortunately the deal fell through. Mr Ferenc Port the president of the Association of Art Cinemas [and member of Europa Cinemas] has carried on professional negotiations concerning the future of the cinema with the leaders of the municipality and on the basis of his advice the theatre will be enlarged with two more auditoriums.

What do you think of the current good health of the Hungarian cinema?

Hungarian films were already famous in the sixties for telling something about Hungary from a typically Hungarian point of view (films by Miklos Jancso, Marta Meszaros, Peter Bacso, Istvan Szabo). As far as young filmmakers are concerned, we can see a  similar trend which seems to be popular not only in Hungary but abroad as well. Kontroll is one of the best examples of this phenomenon. The next film could be Fekete kefe (Black Brush), which was awarded the main prize in Budapest Film Week.
Of course some films are successful in Hungary but have no chance to get a release in European countries. They are usually comedies with specific Hungarian humour. These films could nevertheless be distributed in the adjoining countries.
It is sad that films from the Eastern European countries do not get a release in Hungary. Some of them that yet manage to do so do not prove to be great successes.

Where does the idea of your festival come from and what’s its position in the Hungarian festivals’ scene?

I already had in mind to organize a festival some years ago and I took part in the organization of the last short film festival. Miskolc used to have film festivals for a few decades as well as a television festival but they were discontinued in the end of the eighties.
The revival of the festival tradition in the old ways was out of date so I thought an international film festival should be organized to present films made by young filmmakers. We had not had such a festival in Hungary earlier. In my opinion this festival is a unique opportunity for young filmmakers from Hungary and other countries to present their films to the audience in a real cinema maybe for the first time and to take part in a contest where the prizes are awarded by an international jury.

In our festival the most important requirement is that the filmmaker should be under 35. The other Hungarian film festivals have different characteristics. The Budapest Film Week presents only domestic productions. The Titanic Film Festival does not award prizes. Mediawave Visual Festival in Gyõr seems to be the closest to our festival but it is in the other part of the country near the Austrian border, and it is not simply a film festival but more like an art-festival with a lot of musical programmes. We have a good working relationship with them and help each other. We entered into relations with Fresh Film Festival of Karlovy Vary last year before the first festival. This year we have made an agreement with them and agreements with other Polish festival partners are in progress especially to promote each others’ programmes. Our aim is to get in touch with more European festivals.

The success of the festival last year surpassed all our expectations. We received more than 160 entries and most of the filmmakers visited the festival. Our guests came from Canada, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Lebanon and Israel. The atmosphere of the festival was great, screenings finished in the small hours every day.
Though the deadline of the entries has not expired, more than 150 films have arrived from countries like Japan, Romania, Germany, Mexico, Australia, the Philippines, the USA, Belgium, France and Holland.

What’s the place of the festival in the cultural life of Miskolc?

In my opinion the festival has an important role in the cultural life of Miskolc and it will take place annually. Miskolc is applying for being Cultural Capital of Europe 2010 and another festival, the popular opera festival, takes place here every year. In the domestic cultural life we managed to arouse young people’s interest in Miskolc. Earlier we organized a Meeting for Young filmmakers, which can now be seen as the antecedent of the current festival.
The young filmmaking generation has recently become stronger and some of the representatives of this generation have made interesting and successful films such as Nyócker, Kontroll and Hukkle. Last year one of the first filmmakers was awarded with the first prize (Peter Lichter: Slow Midnight Show / Éjszakai elõadás). Then in another domestic festival he won the main prize of the category with the same film and he has been invited to foreign festivals since then.
From the very beginning the idea of the festival was supported by the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary, the National Cultural Fund and the Ministry of National Cultural Heritage.
It is no doubt that the key of the Hungarian film’ future is in the hand of young filmmakers. We hope that in some years’ time some names of first filmmakers from our festival will sound familiar in domestic and European movie lives.

Comments collected by Jb Selliez, July 2005