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The life of Avenida Almirante Reis made a movie

For three weekends, geographer Aquilino Machado guides us on a virtual tour along Avenida Almirante Reis of popular cinemas, cafes and breweries, transporting us to a vibrant Lisbon bohemian that defies the conventions of the dictatorship. The popular films of Cinema Lys, the summer seasons of Cine Esplanada Portugália and the premieres at Cinema Império are three stories that we anticipate here from this film that you won't want to miss.

Movie theaters and other meeting places on Avenida Almirante Reis: an emotional memory of resistance to the Estado Novo


Cinema Lys /Roxy

Lys was a popular cinema located on the corner between Avenida Almirante Reis and the former Rua do Registro Civil. The programming was based on reruns, in fact, like all popular cinemas of that time, which were located on the axis of Rua da Palma – Avenida Almirante Reis. It happened to be built on a terrain of strange appearance, which shaped it into an unusual and fun shape, so close to the prow of a ship. Its promoter was a renowned lawyer, Abraham de Carvalho, who asked the engineer Machado Rodrigues for help in carrying out the project. The same was still refined by the architect Tertuliano Marques, the same one who designed the Chiado-Terrasse.

The opening took place around Christmas 1930 and was a film party that began with a German comedy, followed by a drama, then ended with a Portuguese film and ended with a documented nationalist. His life was punctuated by dramas and fictions alien “to place, time and customs”, as José Rodrigues Miguéis wrote to us.

In the year of 1973, the cinema would undergo some changes that allowed it to consider some improvements, but above all to show debut films. It changed its name and everything, being called Cinema Roxy. But times had changed, and the neighborhood punks no longer frequented it as they used to, looking for “a tuneless and myopic piano trotting along a Far-West that never existed except on celluloid” (Rodrigues Miguéis, 1968: 203) . It would end in the times of our Democracy, when the chairs gathered dust and the disillusionment of the betrayal of a neighborhood to a place staged to shed laughter and cinephile tears.


Cine Esplanada Portugal

At Cervejaria Portugália there was a terrace where outdoor films were shown. The idea was copied from other places, from other neighborhoods in Lisbon, like the one on the Esplanada Monumental, on Avenida Álvares Cabral.

The Cine Esplanada was open only for the summer season, over four months, with movie sessions every night. The protection of starry nights was then the best company of all those who attended the sessions between the day of its inauguration, June 4, 1956, and its closing, which occurred a decade later. This record of films will forever mark the one that happened in the first month of existence: on the 4th, the film “Uma boca dreamera”, on the 6th, “Cantinflas in Calças Pardas” and on the 10th, “Luzes da Ribalta” , by Charles Chaplin, unusually cataloged for over 18s.



Cinema Empire + Studio

Império differed from popular movie theaters on Avenida Almirante Reis because it was a movie theater for premieres and not for reruns. Cinema Império was a majestic cinema, an undertaking designed to shine in a square designed by the Estado Novo. It was the time of the big movie theaters, and this one was inaugurated in the year of 1952, at the risk of the architects Chorão Ramalho and Frederico George. Its debut was marked by the showing of the film “La beauté du diable”, a French-Italian production, directed by René Clair, and performed by Gérard Philiphe and Michel Simon. Three years later, he opened Café Império, designed by architect Chorão Ramalho, and integrating artistic notes by Luís Dourdil and Martins Correia.

Both in the café and in the majestic Cinema room, there were several musical shows, from those that had Madalena Iglesias and Artur Garcia as interveners, to the sounds of the ye-yé. But other musical forays took place in Cinema Império, in the fifties, and the one that gained more popularity occurred with the concert by the Count Basie Orchestra, with his own piano. In the sixties, it would be the turn of Quincy Jones and Cliff Richard and his Shadows, who performed on the 11th and 12th of December 1965, with a presentation by Pedro Castelo.

On October 29, 1964, he opened the Estúdio do Império room, under the responsibility of Frederico George. It was the beginning of a new generation of theaters associated with large movie theaters, and which bet on the loyalty of a more demanding audience with new cultural expectations. The premiere took place with the film “The Rain Hats of Cheburgo”, by Jacques Demy, but during its existence, its balance was always centered by a program based on filmmakers that the big theaters normally did not want to bet on. About this opening, a film critic from the evening “Diário de Lisboa” wrote the following:

“With a selected audience – writers, artists, critics, filmmakers and prominent personalities in Lisbon's intellectual and social life – the latest work by Jacques Demy was screened, “The Umbrellas of Cherburgo”. The author of “Lola”, a young and talented director, won with this film two prestigious awards: the “Golden Palm” at Cannes and the Louis Delluc Prize. Despite its originality and fantasy, we believe that “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” has a modicum of spectacular quality to be likely to interest a wider audience”.

© Municipal Archive of Lisbon
© Municipal Archive of Lisbon
© Municipal Archive of Lisbon

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