Zsófia Buglya - Head of Programming - Urania National Film Theatre, Budapest

The section EXPERTS' CORNER is giving voice to the people who have already been working with added content for some time now, gaining first-hand experience in the field which MEDIA SALLES think is worth sharing internationally.

20 November 2019

- Which type of audience do you target with added content?

Zsofia BuglyaBeing the National Film Theatre of Hungary, Urania has a responsibility to address and develop a diverse audience, while showing high-quality, exclusive programs that can fill an auditorium seating 425 on a regular basis. The appearance and, from then onwards, the growing variety of alternative content has become an important vehicle in fulfilling the institution's cultural mission. And as with our many film weeks and film series during the year, we look for variety in the field of event cinema as well; we try to pick something for all tastes and all age-groups and communicate these added contents accordingly.

- We know that you offer a variety of added content: what is the most successful type?

The MET Live in HD season has been a bestseller, of course. With both live transmissions and encores, some popular titles can attract up to 1,700 spectators, as Nabucco did in 2017. Some theatrical performances have become evergreens too, first and foremost NT Live's Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role: since 2015, we have had 20 screenings with an average of 385 viewers per screening. Shakespeare and Cumberbatch together are simply a must for everyone, and allow us to include less evident pieces into the programme, such as The Madness of George III or All My Sons. We know that these two will never reach the same popularity in Hungary, simply because they are not part of the Country's general culture. But they are important reference points for a smaller group of theatre-loving intellectuals.
There is another field that I would like to highlight, and this is the Exhibition on Screen series, for which we have been able to develop a very special, devoted audience. We show these titles in dedicated time slots at Urania, mainly Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, and the screenings have become real events, often family events, for many of our cinemagoers. As distributors know about this fan circle, they are keen to bring us regular film titles dealing with the arts, e.g. biopics about painters. This is how regular and alternative titles help each other.

- Is the ticket price for added content higher than the ticket price for films?

Of course, the price for added content is significantly - 2/3 times - higher, because working with these titles demands a lot more: more human resources, longer screening times, more communication etc. Regarding communication: we plan our event cinema titles long ahead, almost on a seasonal basis, which allows us to have seasonal programmes, where, again, contents can feed into one another.

- Which was the most successful screening in 2018/2019?

I think one of the most successful titles was The Curious World of Hieronymus Bosch: 2,066 people saw it at our 6 screenings. And of course the BTS Love Yourself Tour in Seoul concert, which was available in January for one day only, with 3 sold-out screenings on that one day.

- Can you please mention some titles that you programmed in 2017-2018 and those you will programme in 2020?

In 2017/18 we made an attempt with a few Stage Russia screenings, classical Russian plays, as we did earlier with one Comédie Française event (Le Misanthrope). Neither of them became really popular, but were worth to try. As for 2020, we have already announced many of our seasonal programmes, among them the MET and the Bolshoi, but we hope to receive further offers for one-time screenings as has happened with Depeche Mode: Spirits in the Forest, which will be screened on November 21.

- Do you believe the Hungarian market for added content/event cinema will develop in the near future?

I assume it will, but it is also a question of regulations. I think the art-house cinema scene needs exclusive and event-like contents, which can be either festivals and film clubs or event cinema. Otherwise we cannot compete effectively with multiplex cinemas. But art cinema regulations cannot fully handle added content yet. And as long as screening alternative content entails the risk of losing a cinema's art label, it can prevent cinemas (and distributors) from trying out new types of contents or simply feeling good about planning ahead creatively. Also, Hungary is a small language territory with a relatively small potential audience, therefore cinemas in Hungary will never have the same easy access to event titles as their peers in the UK. More initiative and more groundwork is required, in order not to discourage smaller venues from taking their first steps towards event cinema.