The very first cinema of Budapest, Royal Apolló, was opened on 31 October 1915 on Erzsébet Boulevard.
The first “movie” in Budapest was projected on the walls of a house on Váci street. In April, only four months after the Lumiére brothers presented their invention, there were already movie shows at the Somossy Orfeum (where the Operetta-theatre is today) under the name Animatograph. For a long time these movies were part of the carnival, something that was projected on tents between the shows of the flea-circus and the clowns.
The first permanent cinema was opened by Mór Ungerleider, coffee-house owner, and József Neumann, former artist, in 1906 at 27 Erzsébet Boulevard under the name Projektograph, which was later changed to Odeon. The number of cinemas started growing rapidly; in 1909 there were 46 cinemas in Budapest, while in 1913 there were 114 already (the Hungarian equivalent of the word cinema is “mozi” and was coined by writer Jenő Heltai).
The Royal Apolló was opened by Ungerleider and his companions in the Grand Hotel Royal, which was one of the biggest hotels of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. It was built in 1896 in the style of the French renaissance, and was based on Rezső Ray’s design. The guests had access to palm gardens, restaurants, confectionaries, several shops, post offices, banks, hairdressers, and ticket offices, but they could also visit the saloons, reading rooms, bars, and the hotel had its own bath as well. The Grand Hotel Royal was home to many concerts and readings, and the first Hungarian aeroplane was also presented there in 1909. Sándor Bródy, Gyula Krúdy, and Endre Ady were among the hotel’s regulars, and the latter even had access to his room directly from the street.
On 10 May 1896, only ten days after the opening of the hotel’s café, movies were already projected on behalf of the Lumiére brothers; the shows changed every week and the entry fee was 50 krajcár (50 pennies). The hotel’s unused great hall was renovated in 1915 to accommodate 1000 people; it cost half a million korona. The first movie, Jenő Jankovics’s Tetemrehívás was shown on 31 October 1915; the opening speech was delivered by the movie’s protagonist, Lili Berky.
The Royal Apolló soon became one of the most popular places in Budapest, and was later bought by István Gerő’s company. It gave home to the first Hungarian sound film, A kék bálvány (A Blue Idol) in 1931, starring Pál Jávor. The movie theatre became the property of the Hungarian Film Office (Magyar Film Iroda) at the end of the 1930s, and it was renamed to National Apolló in 1942 until 1945.
During the Second World War it served as the Gestapo’s headquarters and was bombed several times. The movie theatre got back its original name, Royal Apolló, in 1945, and was run by Mafilm Hungarian Film Studios (Magyar Filmipari Rt.). The cinema was nationalized in 1948 and was renamed to Red Star. During the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 the roof was burnt down, and the building was bombed many times. It was later renovated and completely redesigned, and was reopened in 1959 in Christmas. During the 1980s, the front of the building was reconstructed according to the original designs, and the ballroom and the stairs were declared historic property.
Due to economic reasons, the hotel was closed down in 1991; later a French-Canadian consortium received the reopening rights. According to the original plans, there would have been a ball room, an office, and a cinema centre in the building; the plan was unsuccessful, and the cinema reopened and ran under the name of Apolló between 1993 and 1997. During a new tender, the Corinthia Konzorcium bought the property for 1.18 billion HUF, and wanted to reopen it as a hotel, movie theatre, and restaurant. The Apollo Cinema that was inside the hotel was bought for 274 million HUF in 1998; however, it no longer functions as a movie theatre but serves as the Corinthia Royal Grand Hotel.
based on an article of mfor.hu
translated by Adrienn Sain