Hungary, Europe’s second most popular destination for Hollywood shoots, is offering exemptions for U.S. cast and crew from the European Union ban announced Tuesday. Film production in the country rose 50% last year, breaking records, and studios this year are booked solid for months to come.
The Hungarian government’s film commissioner, Csaba Káel, told Variety: “Now that the state of emergency has ended, restrictive measures have been eased and the travel restrictions are continually being lifted; special exemption can be granted for non-EU residents to enter Hungary without mandatory quarantine, international projects are being prepared, making it possible to restart production at full capacity.”
For weeks now, Netflix has been building sets in two stages at the NFI Mafilm studio complex in Fót, near Budapest, for its series “Terra Vision,” and will start shooting mid-July.
In addition, Mafilm’s medieval backlot set has been booked by another U.S. production for the second half of July, and there has been an increase in interest from several international producers for soundstages and backlot space.
Soundstages across Hungary are booked up until the end of the year, according to Hungary’s National Film Institute. Three Hollywood productions – Legendary’s “Dune,” Amazon’s “The Banker’s Wife” and Sony’s “The Nightingale” – are set to resume shooting this year at Origo Film Studio, and filming of Showtime’s live-action, scripted series “Halo” will resume at Korda Studio. Both studios are close to Budapest.
Production was never entirely halted during the pandemic. A feature documentary about Hungarian Olympic swimmer Katinka Hosszú was allowed to continue filming throughout. This month, Hungarian fantasy romance “Half Way Home” restarted its shoot, and comedy “Daddy and Other Wolves” got principal photography underway.
According to data shared exclusively with Variety Tuesday by the National Film Institute, records were shattered last year, with the amount spent directly on film production in Hungary reaching $565.6 million (HUF 164.4 billion), an increase of about 50% over the preceding year. Around 94% of the total amount came from international productions.
In 2019, the production of 319 films were registered in Hungary, 228 of which were Hungarian, eight were co-productions and 83 foreign productions.
The greatest amount, $48.2 million, was spent on TNT’s “The Alienist: Angel of Darkness,” the second season of the Emmy-winning show, starring Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans and Daniel Brühl. The Hungarian spend on Showtime’s “Halo,” to be released in 2021, exceeded $41.3 million, while around $24 million was spent each by the Netflix series “Shadow and Bones” and Barry Levinson’s feature biopic “Harry Haft” (Baltimore Pictures, Bron Media Corp.), starring Ben Foster.
Hungary offers a 30% tax rebate for film and TV productions, based on the expenditure in the country, and the rebate can reach 37.5% through the addition of qualifying non-Hungarian costs.