The construction of the Uránia's building was finished in the mid-1890s on today's Rákóczi avenue. The design of the palace, built by Henrik Schmal at the request of Kálmán Rimanóczy, incorporates the Venetian Gothic and the Eastern Moorish styles. The architect was originally commissioned to create a music and dance hall, but the place finally opened as a cabaret. At the turn of the century the Hungarian Academy of Sciences initiated a search for a theatre where the Uránia Scientific Society could hold presentations illustrated by moving pictures. Hence the building was rented from 1899 by the Uránia Society and was given the strange name Uránia Hungarian Scientific Theatre. Later on the function of the building changed, but the name Uránia has remained ever since.
The Uránia fulfilled a scientific and educational role for 17 years. A significant event in its history was in the spring of 1901 when the first independent Hungarian feature film was shot here, directed by Béla Zitkovszky. The legendary 'Dance' featured 23 episodes from the history of dance, including famous actresses, Lujza Blaha dancing the Csárdás and Sári Fedák dancing the Japanese clog. Unfortunately the film was destroyed in a fire soon after it was made, now only a box named 'Dance' in the Main Hall keeps its memory alive.
The Uránia's interior was first revamped in 1917, to make its halls suitable for film screenings. In 1930 it became a UFA Cinema, modelled on the Berlin Universum Film AG. After World War II, Uránia became the film theatre of Szovexport. In February, 1945, the first film after World War II was shown here, which obviously presented the struggles of the victorious Red Army. Later Hungary regained possession of the building and the film theatre became one of the capital’s favourites.
In 2002, the authorities responsible for culture restored the more than 100 year old building to its original beauty. Two chamber halls holding 60 people were constructed to add to the Main Hall holding 425 people in the Uránia building. The chamber halls were named after two renowned figures of Hungarian film history, Zoltán Fábri, film director, and Gyula Csortos, the legendary actor. The dress-circles of the Main Hall were also renovated, since when they have born the names of classic films from international and Hungarian film history. That is how Hyppolit, La Grande Illusion, The Gold Rush, Casablanca, Blue Angel, Meseautó (Dream Car) and Körhinta (Merry-Go-Round) gained their eternal places in the film theatre, as well as A táncz (Dance), which gave its name to the most impressive, middle dress circle.
In 2006, the Uránia National Film Theatre was awarded the European Union’s monument protection prize, Europa Nostra, for outstanding monument restoration. Budapest’s most beautiful film theatre welcomes again film and cinema lovers, playing host to film festivals, special presentations, and other prestigious professional film events.
Since February, 2005 until March, 2015 Mrs. Edit Bakos has been managing the film theatre. Since March, 2015 the executive director is Mr. Botond Elekes