Interview with Erika Borsos
Budapest Film, Hungary
In a series of interviews with the exhibitors on its Validation Committee, Europa Cinemas takes stock of the situation facing independent exhibitors across Europe during this time of crisis.
1 - First of all, how are you?
It is difficult to describe how I feel in this situation. I seem to be watching a disaster or a science fiction film while waiting to wake up ... But most of the time, optimism prevails... Making cinema from home ... is a little paradoxical.
2 - How do you manage this particular situation from a professional point of view? Are you and your colleagues currently working? Do you have any income?
Unfortunately, we are living in a time of uncertainty. We don't know how long it will last, we don't know when it will end, so it's difficult to manage that way. We are constantly watching the activities of cinemas across Europe, looking for ideas and, of course, thinking about how we can make this period useful. We work, but not everyone. Budapest Film is a relatively large company with 100 employees, which includes older colleagues who stay strictly at home. But there are also people who go to the cinemas and the office to renovate, paint and clean. I personally do accounting and I think of new proposals that we could pursue.
3 - Which projects did you find interesting to keep up some activity and which ones were you able to set up?
It turns out that a lot of work can be done online, this can continue even after the pandemic. Before the pandemic limitations, we thought of operating an open-air cinema, but now it seems that this cannot happen. On the other hand, our most important innovation is a service called Távmozi / Telecinema, which will be available from April 21, 2020. It's something similar to a VOD platform, but it's a virtual cinema option (film.artmozi.hu). We offer quality art and entertainment films to our viewers, but the offer is constantly expanding with new film premieres and film festivals. While you are waiting for the film, you enter the cinema hall (a chat room), the same staff will be there as it was in a real cinema.The film cannot be stopped, paused, it cannot be fast-forward. It works like a screening. We look forward to the results.
4 - Do you think that these new activities could continue after the pandemic period?
With the tickets sold from Telecinema, we can directly help the survival of Budapest Film cinemas and financially help the employees of the company during this unexpected "no cinema" period. We see this online platform as a temporary option, and we have no plans to pursue it in the future if we can reopen cinemas. Of course, the important fact is that we will have gained experience, so this service can be restarted at any time.
5 - What are the initiatives of the Hungarian State and regional and local public institutions to help movie theaters in this period of crisis? Do financial supports exist or are they being explored?
We are working with the Art Cinema Association to find out what public institution or funds are available to help us, and what opportunities they have to help our industry. We have ideas and the National Cultural Fund is open to our ideas, but there are implementation difficulties. Currently, the government has made a contribution rebate to cultural institutions, which is a great help, but unfortunately it is not a long-term solution to survive. Cinemas have not yet received specific support.
6 - What are your biggest concerns for the coming months? How do you see the recovery of your activity, are you planning a communication campaign, or any special event? In your relationship with your audience, do you have any fears or, on the contrary, do you see reasons for optimism?
It’s difficult to say anything in such an uncertain situation. The biggest challenge is to keep the business alive and prevent colleagues from finding themselves out of work and without pay. If there is no change, no support, we will only hold on until the end of the summer. However, it all depends on when we can reopen our movie theaters. If the reopening takes place during the summer, we will try to recreate the magic of open air cinema. It is difficult to predict whether people will be happy to come to the movies after the restrictions have ended. But in an optimistic view of things, we see that everyone is dying to access culture and the big screen, and that by following the regulations, we will be able to satisfy a large audience!