RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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Showing 251 - 275 of 1,379 comments

LuisV
LuisV on April 17, 2011 at 12:03 pm

Wow, I take back my prior comments. These new photos are much worse than the current state of the Kings. Nonetheless, with enough money it is still salvageable. The question, of course, is where would it come from. It’s a terrible loss not just for Flushing but for the country.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 17, 2011 at 6:06 am

During this week in April, 1959, RKO Keith’s Flushing was presenting a CinemaScope & Color double bill of Universal-International releases, “Never Steal Anything Small” (James Cagney-Shirley Jones) and “No Name On The Bullet” (Audie Murphy-Joan Evans). Offering fierce competition was Century’s Prospect, with the first popular-priced engagement of Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments” (75 cents days, 99 cents nights, 40 cents for kids at all times). Both theatres were first-run for Flushing, but sharing their programs with others in Queens.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 16, 2011 at 5:59 am

The shame about the State is that it was in really good shape. They twinned it by splitting the balcony off from the orchestra and much of the original design was still in evidence in the balcony theater. Could have easily been restored and we would have retained at least some vestige of TImes Square’s rich cinematic history. But… that’s a lamentation for another page! There’s enough misery to rue over the Keith’s.

BobbyS
BobbyS on April 16, 2011 at 3:38 am

Ed, I didn’t realize the Amsterdam was closed for 12 years.I was a tourist and wanted to see the theater and the manager let me walk around. A Jane Fonda movie was showing. The theater pales to the beauty of the Keith’s. Dark wood everywhere except the lobby. I was also a tourist when the demo crew were taking apart the Times Sq. Paramount in the late 60’s. Now that was a major crime and should have never happened. It only got worse when the Loew’s State came down years later.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 15, 2011 at 4:42 pm

How about when the owners of the magnificent and historic Rivoli Theatre on Broadway and 49th Street erected scaffolding around the facade under the guise of giving it a good cleaning only to reveal when the scaffolding came down that the facade had been stripped of much architectural detail? This was a deliberate move to circumvent LPC review of the property for protection and cleared the path for its eventual destruction mere months later.

Movieplace
Movieplace on April 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thank you for posting the picture of the Keith’s auditorium. I had believed for to long that the auditorium was gone. I agree with Ed Solero, the Keith’s had a typical owner from hell. They obviously did as much damage they the could before the structure was given Landmark status. This tactic has been perpetuated for decades; Harry Macklowe tried this with Hudson Theatre, the Sutton Theatre facade was stripped by developers of a high rise, the Dakota Stables was ruined in the same way before demolition, just to avoid consideration by LPC. What is worse, city agencies do not talk to each other. The DOB will issue permits even though a building is being considered for protection.

LuisV
LuisV on April 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

Yes Ed, Huang was a D-Bag and I wish there was a law that alowed us to send people like him to jail for destroying such beautiful architecture; especially when we all knw that theaters like this will NEVE be built again. Every theater that is lost makes the remaining ones that much more valuable.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 15, 2011 at 8:08 am

It was fortunate for the Kings that it didn’t have a malevolent owner who basically hired construction workers to rape and pillage the building’s interior. I’ve heard that gaping holes were punched through the floors in the mezzanine lounge area, exposing the rear rows of the orchestra section below. I have yet to see photographic evidence of those damages, but I’m sure those descriptions are accurate. So while it is rather remarkable that what we see in all of these current interior photos is in as good a condition as they seem, there are areas and details that we have not yet seen, which may paint an uglier picture. Still believe that the old place is salvagable, provided someone has the will and the means to do so.

LuisV
LuisV on April 15, 2011 at 7:41 am

I too was in the Kings (twice) in the last year, but have not been in the Keiths so I can only judge by the photos. The Kings auditorium was bad but not irrevocable. I have no doubt that the Keiths is in worse shape.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on April 15, 2011 at 7:33 am

Having been inside both theaters recently, the Keith’s is 100x worse than the Kings, and would probably cost a lot more than 70 million to restore.

LuisV
LuisV on April 15, 2011 at 7:31 am

My understanding is that there were indeed gaping holes and pigeons living inside. It is why the New Amsterdam is always used as the main reference point when people say that a certain theater is “too far gone” for restoration. Of course, at the end of the day it always boils down to money and the New Amsterdam is the perfect example of what can be done if the will (and the funding) can be found. I could be wrong but wasn’t $70MM spent on Radio City’s restoration way back when and that theater was all in one piece and still put together. I do agree, however, that the Keiths auditorium looks to be in better shape than I expected to see; certainly not much worse than the Kings (also being renovated at a cost of $70MM).

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 15, 2011 at 6:23 am

Hey Bobby. The New Amsterdam actually shuttered in the early 1980’s and was left vacant for at least a dozen years before Disney swooped in with its restoration. And I do believe that there were leaks into the New Amsterdam – not sure if there were any gaping holes in the roofing or open exterior doorways, as there are at the Keith’s.

BobbyS
BobbyS on April 15, 2011 at 6:09 am

Wonderful photo Matt…I had no idea the theater was in such good shape considering it has been closed for so long. The New Amsterdam was used as a 2nd rate movie theater until it was bought by Disney and restored. But it was never left to the weather and empty for 1 day and the Keith’s looks as in good shape considering. It should never be used as a movie theater, those days are gone, but for live performances as it was designed to do.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 15, 2011 at 3:11 am

Awesome shot on that site, Matt! LuisV… “we” may not have the resources to save this theater, but someone out there does. The problem is, the local politicians (unlike the Brooklyn BP) are not motivated to find anyone to restore this brokedown palace to its highest and best use.

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on April 14, 2011 at 4:23 pm

I believe putting it on the Federal Register only means you cannot use Federal money to knock it down.

SWCphotography
SWCphotography on April 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Thanks Matt! Exactly as I saw it in February. Much of the missing auditorium artifacts were hacked off, crated and stored in the theater. I’ve stated the facts that the RKO is a cultural asset in a community that has few. The census, traffic flow, vacancy rate and tax assessment are also public record, it is acknowledged even by proponents for Flushing Commons that Flushing is over crowded. Projects like these would take over 3 years to complete, during that time traffic flow will go from extremely bad to impossible. The rhetoric has Flushing as “booming” and somehow has defied gravity. As congestion increases it will become even more difficult to sell. The facts are on the ground lots of empty buildings and people struggling to get on the subway, the golden goose has laid its last golden egg.

LuisV
LuisV on April 14, 2011 at 11:40 am

Thanks for the link Matt. To be honest, the interior doesn’t look much worse than the Kings and is certainly much better than the New Amsterdam before its restoration. That said, we all know that the restorations on both took/will take tens of millions and we simply don’t have those resources for this theater.

Ed, I don’t disagree with look on lending standards in the next year but in due time they will get back to more liberal standards. I have been in real estate for almost 21 years! :–) Of course, people will always need paces to live and if they don’t build for sale condos they will simply build rentals as is happenning throughout Manhattan, Downtown Brooklyn and Long Island City. Flushing is a good prospect as well.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on April 14, 2011 at 10:28 am

That’s odd. This link should work

View link

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 14, 2011 at 10:01 am

Hey Matt… That link doesn’t seem to work for me. Brings me to the After the Final Curtain website, but the specific page is not found.

LuisV, not to continue the debate or get between you and SWC – because I think I’m done with the topic – but I wouldn’t be so sure that lending will get any easier within the next year. As one who is in the mortgage industry, I can tell you it has gotten much tougher to obtain a loan over the last 3 years and there are proposals being batted about on Capitol Hill that may make lending practices tighter still – calling for larger down payments and more conservative estimates of borrower capacity. How that impacts the overall economic recovery and how long it will take these policies to be enacted (and in what form – likely watered down), I leave for others to theorize.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on April 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

Here’s a recent image of the remains of the auditorium of the Keiths

http://afterthefinalcurtain.net/?attachment_id=142

LuisV
LuisV on April 14, 2011 at 9:00 am

Once again, SWC, you are wrong. The census is being challenged and tightly so. There are certainly more people in NYC now than there have ever been and the the economy in NY is absolutely improving. If you choose not to see it that is your choice but it doesn’t change reality. Housing is in tight supply. Once lending becomes easier (and it will within a year) you will see how quickly the housing market recovers in the boroughs. I understand your frustration with the Keiths, I really do. I get sick thinking about the loss of theaters like the Roxy, The Center, Proctors 59th St, Capitol, Rivoli, the original Ziegfeld, the Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Fox, Triboro, Loews Commodore, the Forum, and on and on. But again, the sheer number of them meant that they could not all bre saved so I take solace in the ones that we have been able to preserve. There is still work to do but I’m afraid that the Keiths never got the right break or the right saviour. It was a beautiful theater. I was there only once but was awed by its beauty.

SWCphotography
SWCphotography on April 14, 2011 at 8:47 am

The sad reality is that the economic rebound is not around the corner a fact underscored by the census. The RKO was not designed as a theater but to accommodate live performances. That a plan does not exist for adaptive reuse is thanks to the ownership of 3 consecutive developers. When Thompson’s plan falls through because he will not get final approval or funding it will fall back on the bank and ultimately the city. If anyone can advocate something as preposterous as a pedestrian bridge to Willets Point before Flushing Bay even has funding or a plan for clean up then funding can be found for public works other than pursuing the pipe dream of increasing the population density but improving the quality of life.

LuisV
LuisV on April 14, 2011 at 6:03 am

SWC, you are being very short sighted. We are just coming out of the greatest economic crisis since the depression and NYC has held it together amazingly well. When the economy rebounds you will see those apartments rented and sold very quickly. Willets Point is a DUMP. That is why Eminent Domain exists; to pay property owners Fair Market Value to put the land to a use that better benefits the community at large. Same as Atlantic Yards and at Columbia’s new Campus in the Wasteland that was once Far West Harlem.

The sad reality is that Theater Palaces have outlived their functional usefulness as Movie Theaters. That’s a fact. In these economic times it is tough to get government funding for a restoration of a theater and even if you could, there must be a plan for the theater to support itself. The Kings has pulled off an amazing feat in scoring a $70MM restoration with a lot of city help. They plan on having over 200 events a week to keep it running without further subsidy. We simply can’t do that for every old movie palace in the city. What private company is going to pay to restore a theater and then subsidize its operation on its own? Short of that, each theater has to have its own plan. How will they raise the funds? How will they generate income? In the case of the New Amsterdam and the Kings it involved city tax breaks and the involvement of private companies like Disney and ACE theatricals.

For the Valenica, the Gates, The Hollywood, The Elmwood, the 175th Street, the Stanley, etc, it involved a church that dedicated itself to preserving the architectural integrity of the space and having parishioners pay for the continued upkeep.

For the Jersey, it was a local volunteer group that raised funds and have restored the theater over time after the city transferred ownership to them.

For the St. George, it was one local woman who bought the theater and them “made it work” and now it is a big success as Staten Island’s premier entertainment venue.

For many other theaters in Manhattan it meant returning to live theater.

Alas, no one ever presented a viable proposition for the RKO Keiths Flushing. Was Manes crooked? absolutely! It’s disgusting but here we are all these years later and there is still no credible plan to save this theater other than its lobby. We should make sure that they at least do a wonderful restoration of that. In the meantime, there is still time to save the Brooklyn Paramount, the RKO Keiths Richmond Hill, Loews Canal, The Jackson, etc…