The two basement rooms of the Uránia National Film Theatre were designed during the full renovation between 2000 and 2002, on the newly created level below the Main Hall. At that time, with the spread of multiplexes, the long-established movie theatres in Budapest closed one after the other, and by 1999, attendance at the Uránia Cinema had dropped so dramatically that it had to be temporarily closed.

Professional organisations and the press took action almost immediately and unanimously to protest against the closing of the building, which was completed in 1896 and has a long tradition in Hungarian film and cinema. In the end, due to the importance of preserving the function, the cultural administration decided to create a representative, national presentation institution of film art in the former movie theatre.

The renovation was not only about the monument reconstruction that had been due for years, but also about the modern expansion, with the creation of additional screening rooms. The tender announced in January 2000 was won by Mányi István Építész Stúdió, which envisioned the two smaller rooms to be built under the Main Hall. This concept was synonymous with the complex installation of the basement.

Uránia's basement screening rooms are open (Photo: Uránia National Film Theatre)

Originally, there was no basement level under the then more than a hundred-year-old building, it had to be dug out, but with the help of advanced grouting technology, the palace designed by Henrik Schmahl at 21 Rákóczi Road was put on an almost new footing.

The renovation, which included the renovation of the facade, the reconstruction of the interior spaces with rich ornamentation, the renovation of the air conditioning and ventilation system, the modernisation of the stage technology of the Main Hall and the construction of the upstairs café, was accompanied by the creation of the cinema function of the basement. The reconstructed National Film Theatre was handed over on 1 April 2002.

The Main Hall of Uránia (Photo: Kristóf Kelecsényi)

Between the two rooms in the basement, which can accommodate nearly seventy people, a vaulted so-called foyer was created, in which an Indian teahouse used to operate, but currently this intermediate space is not intended for a catering function.

As Pestbuda previously reported: Uránia, originally built as a nightclub in the mid-1890s, is Budapest's most characteristic building with Moorish features, which attracts the attention of passers-by with its oriental style. Henrik Schmahl designed the building for the Nagyvárad architect Kálmán Rimanóczy on the Rákóczi Road (or Kerepesi Road at that time) lot, originally it housed a concert and dance hall. The main facade of the five-story building is dominated by the Moorish style, which is mostly reflected in the shape and decoration of the windows.

Cover photo: The Uránia National Film Theatre building (Photo: Balázs Both/


From Venice to Moorish ornaments – Uránia National Film Theatre turn 125

Fabulous East in Budapest at the turn of the century - Turkish architecture and places of amusement