In a town somewhere in Hungary with historical and cultural value we discovered one of the most beautiful ballrooms of the whole country. As one of the few cinemas in the region, this used to be the center of attraction for art lovers and the youth. The last screening, however, was already ten years ago and since then the stately theater has been rotting away at a rapid pace. Lately, it has become an insider’s tip of the local urbex community. We were one of the first international photographers when we explored this place. It’s hard to believe that such an architecturally impressive structure lies forgotten within the city center. As the last visitors of the theater we’re trying to bring history to life and show you the beauty of decay.
Hungary has some of the coolest abandoned places we know of. So, it was only a matter of time until we would start a road trip to this country. In the first episode of our new series you could already see fascinating derelict palaces which we explored as the kick-off to our journey. We managed to delve into the moving history of these sites. Also the grand architecture made a lasting impression. But actually, all of that was just a taste of what we should experience this time.
We didn’t know anything about the place we wanted to explore on that day. The exterior façade was damaged completely and the whole building complex looked rather like abandoned construction works than a historical theater. We thought, if this was the spot, it would be a disgrace for the town. How can they let a cultural center go to rack and ruin like this? This is what we wanted to find out. And apparently, we were at the right place. An inconspicuous door was leading us to the imposing entrance hall.
Guys, this was only the foyer. What else can be expecting us here that can top this?! To make it a bit more interesting for you, we share the history of the place we were researching after our exploration. Actually, the cinema was only a small part of a larger building complex with moving past. Originally, the site was constructed as hotel. Its story already started in the 14th century. But the way it looks today, the hotel wasn’t built before 1890. Only after a communization in consequence of World War Two, several refurbishments and extensions as well as numerous changes of name it became the popular entertainment center it was until its closure around 1990. Located at the biggest and most important road in the middle of the city, this building complex combined restaurant, night club, clothing store, barber shop, cine club and the theater itself. The picture palace probably opened in the 60s and even outlived the end of the hotel.
This looks more like a traditional theater than a modern cinema, right? After another major picture palace in the city had to shut down, the management of this facility decided to change the profile completely in order to guarantee economic survival. The place became an art cinema and mainly avant-garde films were shown. The entrance fees, however, remained super cheap. This should be one of the reasons why the theater perished in the end. In this image you can see the last show in 2008. Since then the building has been vacant. The projectors were given to another cinema in the town which had to deal with outdated equipment for years.
For ten years the cinema has been falling apart now and it's striking to see how little vandalism you can find here so far. We only spotted some graffiti but the main rooms have been spared. Unfortunately, most parts of the building ensemble are completely empty. During a multi-year remediation operations simply discontinued. Due to the bumbling demolition and construction works the structure was partly damaged beyond repair. As a matter of fact, the hotel, which was closed down 30 years ago, was supposed to be revived again. Instead there's now a massive ruin downtown. We felt watched the whole time. Due to the central location the streets around the building were quite busy. Because of the missing windows in most parts, pedestrians could have spotted us quite easily. Luckily, nobody was expecting foreign daredevils to be inside the old walls. That's why people simply overlooked us.
There's a last highlight we kept from you so far. Here you can see a popular restaurant and how it used to look a long time ago. It's located exactly below the cinema hall. For that, we have to go back to where we started though.
As you might be able to guess from taking a look at those images over the door, the former restaurant was used as a night club the last few years before the cinema was shut down. You could mistake those pillars for dancing poles but actually, nothing here is reminding of the time when this saloon was used as a striptease bar. Today, you only find splendid architecture and great decay.
So, how will the future of this unique place look like? In fact, we can be optimistic. The city bought the building complex back a while ago. The restoration to its former glory would cost many million Euros; that's for sure. But plans for a comeback already exist. That this will be a cinema again, is highly unlikely though. Anyway, we would be happy to see the forgotten paradise be highly frequented again in the future. Not by scrap metal thieves and vandals but by residents and businessmen. It would be a shame to let such a historical place be buried in oblivion.