The first cinema in Recife was the Pathé, located at 45 Nova St (formerly Barão da Vitória), opening on 27 July 1909.
It had 320 seats and a box for authorities and important people. Its owners were business-partners Antônio Jovino da Fonseca and Francisco Guedes Pereira.
The films shown belonged to Pathé-Frères, founded by Charles Pathé. Sessions occurred from midday to 4pm and from 6pm to 10pm.
From 1910, as well as films, it began showing local shots filmed by the company itself.
Less than four months later, a new movie theatre appeared in the city: the Royal, also situated at 47 Nova St, belonging to the firm Ramos & Co.
The two cinemas fought for the Recife public. The Royal would screen seven films, so the Pathé would put eight on its programme.
The Pathé, however, closed before 1920. The Royal survived for over 40 years. It closed its doors on 1 July 1954.
The Royal was one of the city’s most traditional cinemas, being considered the holy temple of Pernambuco cinemain the 1920s, when it belonged to Portuguese-born Joaquim Matos.
At the premieres of the films Ciclo do Recife (Recife Cycle), Retribuição (Retribution), Jurando vingar (Swearing Revenge), Herói do século XX (20th Century Hero), Aitaré da Praia (Aitaré from the Beach) and A filha do Advogado (The Advocate’s Daughter), the cinema was completely decorated with banners, cinnamon leaves on the floor, and paid for marching bands to entertain its audiences.
On 26 June 1910, at 59 Imperatriz St, the Helvética was opened, owned by Girot & Co. “A family casino”, as its owners liked to boast, it varied its programme with variety concerts as well as films on weekends.
It had an orchestra conducted by Maestro Dinisand served ice-creamsand refreshments at tables located in the garden next to the projection room. In 1930, the Helvética became an entertainment centre called Centre Goal.
The Polytheama, located on Barão de São Borja Stin the Boa Vista neighbourhood, was opened on 25 October 1911, under the direction of writer Eustórgio Vanderley. It was called by students at the time, ‘Polypulgas’ (Many Fleas).In 1932, it was taken over by Luiz Severiano Ribeiro’s company.
At this time, there was also an open-air cinema, the Siri,which projected newsreels and films from a house onto screen. Located at Independence Square, it was closed by the Police in the Dantas Barreto government “for the moral good”.
From 1913, Santa Isabel Theatre also operated as a movie theatre and was considered the best in Recife at the time, having “the clearest, steady and sharpest projection” of the city’s cinemas.
The first session took place in grand style on 14 June 1913, with the inauguration in Recife of a new cinematograph, a device invented in 1895 by the Lumière, brothers, capable of producing a moving image onto a screen through a sequence of photographs. There were daily night sessions and matinées on Saturdays and Sundays.
Comfort and convenience were its advantages over the competition, according to the public. Even without having electrical lighting, which was only installed three years later, it was considered the “most comfortable and hygienic cinema in Brazil”.
A series of ten films could be watched, with the right to a marching band during the showings’ intervals, in the theatre’s luxurious facilities, for only three thousand réis –ten times less than the cost of an opera performance.
TheModerno, which from 1915 also began operating as a cinema, was opened as a theatre on 15 May 1913, in the Santo Antônio neighbourhood. Its first owners were Colonel AgostinhoBezerra da Silva CavalcantiandCarneiro da Cunha & Co.
TheTeatro do Parque (Park Theatre), located at 81 Hospício St, was opened on 24 August 1915 and also began operating as a cinema from 1921. Built by Comendador Bento Luís de Aguiar, it was leased by LuizSeverianoRibeiroin 1929, who on 24 March 1930inaugurated the spectacles of talking cinema in that house in Recife with the film A divinadama (The Divine Lady).
Also appearing in the city in 1915was Cine Ideal, located at 61 Terço Patio, in the São José neighbourhood. This theatre had a peculiarity: it had 250 first-class seats and 217 second-class.
The Glória, famous for its afternoon sessions, was at 127 Direita St, also in São José, and its opening occurred on 4 September 1926, with the screening of the film “Flores, mulheres e perfumes” (Flowers, Women and Perfumes). Its largest audience were frequenters of the São José Market and Dom Vital Square.
In 1922, Recife could also count the Brasil, on Imperial St, theSão José, in the São José Market square, and in 1932, there were also the neighbourhood theatres: Espinheirense, Encruzilhada, PinaandCentral.
In the 1930s, opening on Visconde de Irajá St, in the Torre neighbourhood, was the Cine Torre, which attracted a lot of the public, but it only survived until the end of the 1960s.
In the 1940s, the Art Palácioand Trianon,were opened in the centre of the city, but both closed their doors after a golden period of audience.
The São Luiz, belonging to the LuizSeverianoRibeiro group,was opened on the ground floor of the Duarte Coelho building on 7 September 1952, with modern and luxurious facilities.
It was the stage of large events and film premieres, and was a place greatly attended by Recife society. On 3 October 1953, at midnight, it hosted the national premiere of the Pernambuco film “O canto do mar” (The Song of the Sea), directed by cinematographer Alberto Cavalcanti.
More recent theatres like the Veneza, on HospícioSt, and the Astor and theRitz, located next to 13 de Maio Park, also had their time in the city, but closed their doors long ago.
Progress, the advent of television, video and DVD interrupted the rising trajectory of projection houses in the city and were responsible for the closing of many of the city’s cinemas.
In 1968, there were approximately 101 movie theatres in Pernambuco, with 28 in Recife alone. Today, only the projection rooms in the city’s shopping centressurvive.
Recife, 12 november 2004.
(Updated on 25 august 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, February 2012.
BOLETIM DA CIDADE E DO PORTO DO RECIFE, Recife, n. 43-62, jan./dez. 1952-1956.
CAVALCANTI, Carlos Bezerra. O Recife e seus bairros. Recife: Câmara Municipal, 1998.
DIAS, Isa . Filmes no Teatro Santa Izabel. Suplemento Cultural D.O. PE, Recife, ano 10, p. 3, dez. 1995.
LEMOS FILHO. O Diabo a quatro. In: ______. Clã do açúcar. Rio de Janeiro: Livraria São José, 1960. p. 291-304.
SPENCER, Fernando. Na Rua Nova nasceu o primeiro cinema. Suplemento Cultural D.O. PE, Recife, ano 10, p. 3-4, dez. 1995.
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Old Cinemas In Recife. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009