BROOKLYN, NY — My father’s drycleaner/tailor shop was at 437 Myrtle and as a kid hanging out at dad’s store, I would be given 75 cents to get out of his hair for a couple of hours at the Peerless Theater two doors down.
The building and the interior are today exactly as they were in the early 1960’s when the theater was open for business. Today the interior is even better than it was then because everything is well painted and maintained. The marquee was taken down in the late sixties as I recall, and the front doors were replaced at that time.
The people who lived upstairs had no sound problem because the seats and the screen were actually in a separate building that was 75' down a 20 foot wide entranceway that also housed the ticket booth (on the right side). This area immediately behind the front doors was ostensibly for holding the throngs waiting for the next “sell out show.”
After you walked down the corridor, which is the same length and width as the stores to the right of the movie, you entered the theater proper at the last row of seats with the screen to your right. The wall at the back of the screen is actually on Waverly Avenue. The rear emergency exits lead to a courtyard that is behind Jive Turkey, 3 Stars Laundromat, Yes Cleaners and “Doo’s” barber shop. There is a fire escape from some upper area by the screen that leads down to the courtyard but I wouldn’t think that it could hold two pigeons at the same time these days.
The candy counter was under the screen so that management could save on a matron who, by law, had to be present whenever school was not in session in order to mind the kids. With the candy counter under the screen, the matron could do double duty as candy salesman and matron while remaining in compliance.
The place was never air conditioned but was instead cooled by two enormous, 5-speed electric fans. When the theater closed, my father bought them both and they cooled Tony The Tailor Drycleaners until 2002 when he closed the doors. They were discarded during the subsequent renovation by the present tenant.
There are two windows on the right wall (facing the screen) that were shaded but open during the summer. They were too high to see in from the hidden courtyard, but I could always HEAR the movie while standing in the shade of my father’s gigantic fig trees that were planted against that wall.
Those fig trees had to be the biggest fig trees in the state. The courtyard was closed in on all four sides and was heated, year-round by the window mounted exhaust fans from the laundromat and the drycleaner. They must have thought that they were in the Mediterranean because they extended so high that we couldn’t reach the topmost fruit with the Peerless' marquee ladder that we also “acquired” when they closed the doors!
So it’s all still there…and better than ever. If you stand in the courtyard on weekends, you can be treated to the sound of a full gospel choir!
There’s a short angle photo of the Peerless' marquee available on line. The photo was taken from the north side of Myrtle Avenue facing east from the middle of Clinton Ave. with the old Myrtle Avenue El coming toward the camera on its way to “Bridge & Jay”. I see a 1968 or 1969 Buick parked at the curb. The el came down in 1971, so that should give you an approximate date. The photo is located online. That’s the Peerless' marquee just to the right of the sign that says “CIGARS”.
I’m interested in getting a copy of that DVD. Somebody tell me how. I am John Chiarella ().