Teatro-Circo Saraiva de Carvalho, Figueira da Foz

Two years after Figueira da Foz had been elevated to the category of city, it inaugurated, on September 3 1884 the “Theatro Circo Saraiva de Carvalho”. The building was located at at Rua da Concórdia (Rua Bernardo Lopes since 1902). The building was named in honor of the minister of Public Works from the time of D Luís I. It was he who had completed the Beira Alta line, an important railway line that connected Portugal to rest of Europe. As Figueira da Foz was ‘on the line’ it ment the young city had gotten mayor opportunities because of this important communication route to Europe. At the time of its opening the “Theatro Circo Saraiva de Carvalho” was the largest show house in the country until the “Coliseu dos Recreios” was built in Lisbon.

The architect José Luís Monteiro created a large and circular theater circus that could accommodate more than 3,000 people, despite the official capacity for 2,200 spectators. It had 44 boxes; 120 fauteils; 500 seats and 900 seats in the designated general area.

The theater circus had three large halls on the first floor to support the main room, and on the ground floor there were billiards and a restaurant. As in many similar circus buildings it was not solely used to give circus performances. In fact historical research by Irene Vaquinhas has shown that circus performances only made up for 23% of the total amount of given performances between 1884 and 1895.

The best Opera companies and the most important names in the international lyrical show performed in the building and on the 15th of August 1896 the very first showing of a movie took place here. However true to its origins the performance in two parts with movies, still included a performing a group of Japanese acrobats, comic musicians and a tightrope walker, among others. Probably to give the operators the time to switch movie rolls.

Given the ever-increasing number of bathers in this sea side town and the fact that the theater circus was a privileged meeting point for the best families visiting Figueira at that time, the building underwent further changes and, in 1898, created the grand stage of the main hall. At the turn of the century, this show house was more like a Casino, which became the center of development for the entire Bairro Novo of Figueira da Foz.

To this day the location is a casino. On the inside many of the original circus hall can still be seen, on the outside however nothing remembers from the former glory as in 1995 the entire building was more or less wrapped up in a new modern exterior.