The History of Uránia
The construction of the Uránia's building was finished in the mid-1890s on today's Rákóczi avenue. The design of the palace, built by Henrik Schmal at the request of Kálmán Rimanóczy, incorporates the Venetian Gothic and the Eastern Moorish styles. The architect was originally commissioned to create a music and dance hall, but the place finally opened as a cabaret. At the turn of the century the Hungarian Academy of Sciences initiated a search for a theatre where the Uránia Scientific Society could hold presentations illustrated by moving pictures. So the building was rented from 1899 by the Uránia Society and was given the strange name Uránia Hungarian Scientific Theatre. Later on the function of the building changed, but the name Uránia has remained ever since.
The Uránia fulfilled a scientific, educational role for 17 years. A significant event in its history was when in the Spring of 1901 the first independent Hungarian feature film was shot here, directed by Béla Zitkovszky. The legendary 'Dance' featured 23 episodes from the history of dance, including famous actresses, Lujza Blaha dancing the csárdás and Sári Fedák dancing the Japanese clog. Unfortunately the film was destroyed in a fire soon after it was made, now only a box named 'Dance' in the main theatre hall carries its memory.
The Uránia's interior was first rebuilt in 1917, so that its halls may be suitable for film screenings. In 1930 it became a UFA Cinema, modelled on the Berlin Universum Film AG. In 1945 the first film screening after the war was held here. Both before and after the war the Uránia hosted various film galas, premieres and public events.
The reconstruction finished in 2002 brought back the atmosphere of the 1930s as well as the operation of the theatre stage. The Cinema Palace was extended by two smaller screening rooms, so now 543 comfortable and elegant seats welcome old and new Uránia fans. The comfort is traditional, while the cinema technology meets 21st century requirements with the most up-to-date audio and visual equipment.
Since its April 1 2002 reopening ceremony the building has been welcoming its visitors under the name Uránia National Cinema Palace. Based on its program it is a Euro-centric art film house, and serves as the premiere cinema of every remarkable new Hungarian film. Besides being a representative cinema palace, unique in its art nouveau, Venetian Moorish beauty, the Uránia is also the home of Hungarian and international film festivals and cultural events.
The underground labyrinth with its central hall suitable for exhibitions and meetings, a modern bar and two comfortable small screening rooms provides a unique space for young film makers, creators of documentaries and experimental films.
The exclusive inner café of the cinema, reflecting the turn-of-the-century atmosphere, serves as a perfect background for contemporary art exhibitions, book presentations, press conferences, musical and performing art events.
In 2006 Uránia was presented the Europa Nostra Award.