×

Budapest studios gaining top reputation

Big-budget productions save coin at state-of-the-art facilities

MOSCOW — The sinking of the Titanic is helping buoy the booming biz in Budapest.

While Hungary has been attracting foreign shoots for years with attractive financial incentives, the country’s production infrastructure has hit a level of maturation that’s brought more big-budget — yet budget-conscious — projects to Magyar than ever before.

Stern Film Studio and Media Center’s water tank, billed as Europe’s biggest, hosted the doomed ocean liner for U.K. broadcaster ITV Studio Global Entertainment’s $15 million mini “Titanic,” written by Julian Fellowes and involving international partners that include London’s Lookout Point and Canada’s Global TV. The 98-square-foot heated pool set in a 15,600-square-foot stage, built specifically for the production, can be also be used for regular shoots, says Robert Szabados, Stern’s founder and owner.

The studio — which opened four years ago on the site of a yarn mill Szabados had run for 12 years, before competition from cheaper Chinese textile factories forced him to rethink his line of business — have attracted productions looking to get bang for their buck.

Popular on Variety

“Hungary is much, much cheaper than England — even without the tax breaks,” Szabados says. “A production costs around a third of the price here” as it does there.

Exec producer Simon Vaughan of Lookout Point says Budapest was a convenient and cost-effective location, particularly for productions where major construction was needed.

Hungary had been chosen after scouting Northern Ireland, Ireland, the U.K. and South Africa. “If you need to build a lot of stuff as opposed to shooting the real world, Hungary is a strong contender for productions,” Vaughn says.

He adds that with the mini’s 80 speaking parts, that flying actors in and out from London — just two hours away by air — was convenient and cost-effective.

Korda studios — located some 20 miles outside Budapest, has six soundstages, including a new 63,000-square-foot superstage, production support facilities, workshops, offices, dressing and makeup rooms and backlot sets. It is fully booked through the end of 2011.

Two major television series, Tandem Communications’ German-Canadian $43 million eight-part TV adaptation of Ken Follett’s “World Without End” and Showtime’s “The Borgias,” the 10-part second season of the historic drama starring Jeremy Irons, have taken up residence at Korda.

“Except for some additional backlot space, there’s not an inch of free space at the studio; we are fully booked by both these major productions until the end of the year,” says Korda CEO Tamas Csapo.

It’s the same story at Raleigh Studios, which opened a $70 million, 45,000-square-foot facility boasting nine soundstages and 15 acres of backlot in Budapest last year.

Steve Auer, Raleigh’s topper in Budapest, says the facility was busy with a BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel “Birdsong.”

Other productions that have recently used Budapest include “Asterix: God Save Britain 3D” and “Strike Back” (for HBO).

A segment of a major new Paramount thriller will shoot in town in September.

International producers credit Budapest-based production partner Mid Atlantic Films, led by producers Adam Goodman and Howard Ellis, as being key to helping smoothing the way for Hollywood’s entry into the city. Mid Atlantic has worked on a slew of large-scale international co-production, and most recently was the local co-production partner on Universal’s “47 Ronin,” now in post.

Lookout’s Vaughan credits the two with “having the expertise to run a tight ship and manage multiple projects.”

More Film

  • Oona Chaplin

    Film News Roundup: Oona Chaplin Starring in Horror Movie 'Lullaby'

    In today’s film news roundup, Oona Chaplin is starring in a horror movie, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation will honor Sharon Stone, FuseFX expands, and “Let’s Scare Julie” and “Stray” get distribution. CASTING Oona Chaplin will star in Alcon Entertainment’s horror feature “Lullaby,” based on the mythological figure Lilith. John R. Leonetti (“Annabelle”) is attached [...]

  • Donald Trump Parasite

    Trump Mocks 'Parasite' Best Picture Win: 'What the Hell Was That All About?'

    President Donald Trump took aim at “Parasite’s” historic Oscar wins at a Colorado rally on Thursday. “How bad were the Academy Awards this year?” he asked, prompting jeers from the crowd. “Did you see it?” “The winner is… a movie from South Korea! What the hell was that all about?” he went on. “We got [...]

  • Jack Gordon obit

    Jack Gordon, Former MGM International Distribution Head, Dies at 90

    Jack Gordon, a former president of MGM International Distribution, died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by family. He was 90. Gordon was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 13, 1929. He was the son of the Oscar-winning composer-lyricist Mack Gordon. Following his service in the U.S. Army during the Korean [...]

  • Nine Days Variety Sundance Studio

    ‘Nine Days’ Star Winston Duke Weighs His ‘Social Responsibility’ to Black Men When Choosing Roles

    Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, Zazie Beetz and Bill Skarsgård might be known for their roles in blockbuster franchises like “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Deadpool” and “It,” but in their latest film “Nine Days,” the actors collaborated on something a little less flashy, but emotionally impactful. Assembling in Variety’s Sundance Studio, presented by AT&T, ahead of [...]

  • Tom Harper

    'Aeronauts' Filmmaker Tom Harper to Direct Romance 'Forever' for MGM (EXCLUSIVE)

    MGM has attached “The Aeronauts” director Tom Harper to its romance “Forever” — a project that’s been in development at the studio for eight decades. Jonathan Glickman is producing “Forever,” based on a romantic novella by Mildred Cram (“Love Affair”), which focuses on two lovers from the past who are reincarnated in the modern world. [...]

  • Justin Bieber

    Justin Bieber's 'Cupid' Movie Adds 'Greatest Showman' Director Michael Gracey as Exec Producer

    “The Greatest Showman” director Michael Gracey is joining the production team of Justin Bieber’s animated film “Cupid.” The pop superstar will voice the titular Roman god and executive produce the Mythos Studios movie, directed by Pete Candeland. Black List writer Mike Vukadinovich (Hulu’s “The Runaways”) has also been hired to write the script. “Cupid” marks [...]

  • Premature

    'Premature': Film Review

    There’s poetry in “Premature” — literally, if not always cinematically. Zora Howard, a spoken word artist and sometime actor who reunites with director Rashaad Ernesto Green for his second feature (they collaborated more than a decade earlier on a short of the same name), plays Ayanna, a tentatively romantic Harlem teenager navigating a relationship for [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content