Arnold and Zsigmond Sziklay [Sziklai]

The first Hungarian filmmakers

Motion pictures were possibly first screened in Hungary on 29 April 1896 at the cafe of Károly Somossoy in Budapest, though there are claims for an earlier show at the city's main shopping street Váci Ucta. This was followed by the much-travelled Lumière concessionary Eugène Dupont, who organised screenings at Hotel Royal in Budapest starting 10 May 1896. The following month the travelling businessmen brothers Arnold and Zsigmond Sziklay (or Sziklai), enthused by film screenings they had seen in Paris, began film screenings at 41 Andrássy street, naming their French projector the Ikonograph (some sources suggests this was a Cinématographe but the machine was not available for purchase at this early date). On 13 June the Sziklays took film of Emperor Franz Joseph opening the Millennial Exhibition in Budapest (Hungary celebrated its 1,000th year in 1896), where he met the artist Mihaly Munkacsy and viewed his painting 'Ecce Homo'. They used a camera reputedly of their own construction and the results, though exhibited, were deemed to be a failure, reportedly because the Sziklays had not mastered the art of framing and managed to show the emperor headless. The films do not survive, but two actualities of Budapest taken in May 1896 that may be the work of the Sziklays do exist. It does not appear that Sziklays, more opportunistic businessmen than keen filmmakers, followed up this first experiment.

Luke McKernan (revised June 2013)