News / The Network


The Network - 07/11/2016


Europa Cinemas Awards 2016 - Best Entrepreneur - Cinema Ideal, Lisbon, Portugal


Cinema Ideal is located in the centre of Lisbon, in the Chiado area next to Bairro Alto and Bica, two of the city's oldest and most popular districts which have been the hub of the city's night life for the last 20 years. It has 192 seats with a balcony and stalls (balcão e plateia). The cinema has been in existence since 1904 and was last renovated in 1954. It always operated as a local film theatre that showed reruns of popular films (popular in terms of price, attendance and programming) but in 2001 it became a porn cinema.

We renovated it completely and reopened it two years ago and since then, the building has already won two prestigious awards for its architecture. The quality of its décor and equipment has been particularly praised.

We carried out this project at a time when Portugal was facing a political and economic crisis that represented a social and cultural tragedy. In 2012 there was actually no public support for film theatres. 

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The difficulties facing independent cinemas in Portugal are obvious and it is easy to grasp the extent of the catastrophe when you consider that only six Portuguese cinemas are members of the Europa Cinemas network, and that four of these are situated in Lisbon...

But when the opportunity arose (the idea had been lingering for three years), we did not hesitate to take on the considerable economic and financial challenge. Along with an architect friend whose ‘qualifications’ include an intense love of cinema, we worked in an atmosphere of pride and encouragement from many Portuguese cinema professionals.

Two years later, we realised that we were working against the tide: nowadays, there are countless new incentives drawing audiences away from film theatres and encouraging them to stay at home. We understood that we risked being the last human beings to share the unique experience of the film theatre where we could see films in the company of others who, during the screening, form a community of people from another country: the land of cinema.

We strive for a multiple approach: different audiences, different times of the day, different times of the year. Even with a single screen we always have at least two (and sometimes four) films being screened at the same time, in an endeavour to be a local film theatre and, simultaneously, to appeal to both older and younger people, to film lovers, and to people who simply want to see a film without having to go to a shopping centre.


It is true that, without film theatres, particularly one such as ours, most of the films we love and to which we are committed (in our other role as distributors, and as admirers of films created by others) could not exist. Today the job of a film theatre, to ensure that it achieves real results, is by nature multi-disciplinary, from production to distribution and screening, and anybody wishing to survive in the jungle of the new media has to know a little about everything.

This also means that the most important thing for anybody involved in a film theatre and who knows something about the world of production and distribution is the need to confront reality on a daily basis, to learn, challenge oneself constantly, seven days a week, twelve hours a day, and sense the reaction of the people for whom we work (both filmgoers and cinema professionals).


These last two years have taught us many things and we have used our new knowledge to put pressure on local and national government with regard to the need for three, four, five or more “Cinema Ideal” film theatres to be created, not just in Lisbon but in the whole of Portugal. The cultural and political authorities, however, are having trouble understanding…

What I think we found most important, and most touching, was when people attending one of our screenings for the first time were really surprised when they went into the cinema and realised they were going to be watching a film in a brand new theatre that was totally different to all those identical film theatres in shopping centres (which represent 99% of film theatres in Portugal). And that, when they left, they congratulated us and left with a certain sense of being part of the Ideal. This happens all the time when we host festival screenings (there are about ten in Lisbon) and a filmmaker visits our film theatre with no particular expectations and ends up complimenting us when he realises that his film is being screened under these very good conditions: "You have a great film theatre here, you know..."

Of course, the future is uncertain but we've been hearing about the end of cinema (and in particular the end of the film theatre) for decades now. We shall live long enough to prove that we are immortal and that people will continue to want to see images and listen to sounds together, in the dark...

Pedro Borges, Director