Historical biopic Bridgeman, the most expensive film ever produced in Hungary, opened last week with the country's fourth highest weekend gross ever for a local film. But despite national interest in the subject matter, controversy has erupted over the government's massive $2.5m investment in the $6m film, when the Hungarian average feature budget is just $500,000.
Following the massive success of director Gabor Herendi's A Kind Of America (Valami Amerika) earlier this year, Bridgeman (pictured), distributed by FilmArt/Mokep, was always expected to perform well, but whether it will be able to break even is a matter of growing concern.
Directed by Geza Beremenyi, the film took the top spot at the box office in its opening weekend with $51,653 (HuF 14.2m) - the fourth highest local opening of all time - and claimed second place last weekend, followed in third by A Kind Of America.
An historical movie about the life of Istvan Szechenyi, a 19th century revolutionary still referred to in the country as "The Greatest Hungarian", Bridgeman was a highly anticipated local release. Szechenyi played an important role in Hungarian history, resulting in large audiences among students of all ages - an important factor in the film's success.
Whether interest - and audience numbers - can be sustained to add commercial value to the government's cultural investment, remains to be seen.