RKO Albee Theatre

1 DeKalb Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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Showing 26 - 50 of 111 comments

alberwi on February 14, 2009 at 12:28 am

Many of you will probably know of this already (I hope I’m not repeating a reference to it from somewhere in this wonderful though voluminous thread), but there is an excellent book titled “When Brooklyn Was The World 1920-1957” by Elliot Willensky, published in 1986. It has amusing and informative text and a wealth of fantastic photos (including some of theatres). I actually was looking up the Albee here at Cinema Treasures as it was mentioned fleetingly in the book…didn’t realize I’d come upon such a treasure trove of info about Brooklyn in its heyday! I highly recommend the book to all who are interested in the history of Brooklyn and/or U.S. urban history generally.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 17, 2008 at 11:15 am

This wonderful 1940 view of the downtown shopping district and Fulton Street elevated line was kindly contributed by JF Lundy. The Albee’s marquee can be seen at left. Although the Albee was considered RKO’s “flagship” in Brooklyn, it did not get all of the movies shown at the RKO neighorhood houses in that borough. This was due to a downtown “product split” with the Paramount, Fox, and Loew’s Metropolitan. The films at the Albee were mainly from 20th-Fox, RKO, and Universal. Both films represented in this photo were from 20th-Fox. When they reached the RKO neighborhood theatres, “Earthbound” became a second feature to RKO’s “My Favorite Wife,” and “I Was An Adventuress” was support to WB’s “It All Came True”:
View link

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 1, 2008 at 9:27 am

Tempus fugit! Albee Square Mall has been demolished and will be replaced by City Point, “a five-story open-air mall with 500,000 square feet of retail space,” according to an article in yesterday’s NY Daily News. The story noted that downtown Brooklyn draws 100,000 shoppers daily, and has some of the highest retail rents in all of NYC.

Goodheart on April 19, 2008 at 9:49 am

It certainly was majestic. I remember it well.

Joe B.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 19, 2008 at 8:41 am

Here’s a new direct link to a rare image of the auditorium:
View link

jflundy on April 5, 2008 at 2:11 pm

This link provided background on Keith’s history:
View link

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on January 17, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Hey Joe B… what happened to the photo? Did you post the wrong link or is this the record for quickest deletion of an image from a Photobucket account?

Goodheart on January 14, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Here is a newspaper ad for Disney’s “The Three Caballeros” (1944).

View link

Joe B.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 26, 2007 at 8:00 am

In July, 1959, RKO Theatres, by then a subsidiary of Glen Alden Corporation, sold the Albee and four other large theatres to a real estate syndicate called Theatre Realty Company Parnership, according to reports in The New York Times and Variety. No purchase prices were disclosed, but as part of the deal, RKO leased back management of the theatres for a term of 20 years, with options to renew. In addition to the Albee, the theatres sold were the Fordham in the Bronx, Proctor’s 86th Street in Manhattan, and the Madison and Keith’s Flushing in Queens.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on August 21, 2007 at 12:04 am

Here’s a link to the Albee Square article on the Forgotten NY website that Warren mentioned above. If you scroll about 2/3 of the way down, there is a large vintage B&W image of the cobblestone Flatbush Avenue Extension which depicts a marquee at far right that reads “Photoplays”… What theater is this? I believe it to be a glimpse of the old Subway Theater.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 7, 2007 at 8:08 am

P.S. to my previous post. Site #1 is near the Brooklyn College campus. Germania Place is now called Hillel Place…#2 would have been competition to the Kingsway Theatre…#3 near Loew’s Pitkin…#4 in Sunset Park…#5 in Williamsburg.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 7, 2007 at 6:43 am

In August, 1929, Radio-Keith-Orpheum, the recently named successor to Keith-Albee-Orpheum, canceled plans to build five large theatres in Brooklyn and sold the land sites, most of which had been purchased by the B.S. Moss division of KAO. RKO had decided to concentrate all of its resources on improving its existing theatres rather than building more. Some of the sites already had buildings which would have been demolished to make way for the theatres. The sites were:
1)-30,000 square feet on the west side of Nostrand Avenue at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Germania Place;
2)-28,000 square feet at the NE corner of Kings Highway and Ocean Avenue;
3-38,000 square feet on Eastern Parkway between Ralph and Howard Avenues, running through to St. John’s Place;
4- 40,000 square feet on the east side of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets;
5- 38,000 square feet in the block bounded by Marcy Avenue, Havemeyer Street, South Fourth and Fifth Streets.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 1, 2007 at 9:45 am

The introduction should have an “Also known as” for E.F. Albee Theatre, which was the original name of the theatre. It became a cinema by default, and was described at opening as “The World’s Masterpiece Among Playhouses.” In its first years, the E.F. Albee presented vaudeville only, on a two-a-day policy with the biggest stars, ala Keith-Albee’s flagship Palace Theatre on Broadway in New York City. Larger and more elegant than the Palace, the Brooklyn theatre was named in honor of E.F. Albee, who was then head of all the Keith-Albee enterprises. The theatre first opened on January 19th, 1925, with this as its inaugural program:

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 9, 2007 at 9:25 am

Two views of the closed theatre before demolition can be found in a depressing new article about the current Albee Square at www.forgotten-ny.com

sasheegm on May 4, 2007 at 5:08 am

Nice Clipping Warren and interesting article——-As a youngster I went to all “5” in Downtown Brooklyn——-I always included the Strand along with the Albee, Paramount, Fox,& Metropiltan when looking to see what was playing in the area———Now I own video of “Night World”—1932(Great little film)& of Bebe Daniels in “Rio Rita”———-Thanks for the article——Joe From Florida

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 4, 2007 at 4:42 am

Although stage revues originating at the Capitol Theate on Broadway usually moved on to Loew’s Metropolitan in downtown Brooklyn, “Rio Rita” (with Kitty Carlisle in the title role) was an exception. It ran instead at the Albee, since RKO had put up $12,000 towards the revue’s production to secure bookings for some of its key theatres across the country. While “Rio Rita” rented for $5,800 per week, RKO got a reduction of $1,000 per week until it earned back the advance paid to Loew’s. During that summer of 1932, the “Big Four” palaces of downtown Brooklyn were in the midst of a price war, with weekday tickets reaching an all-time low of 25 cents until 2PM, 35 cemts to 5PM, and 50 cents thereafter (all only slightly higher on weekends and holidays). According to Variety, “Rio Rita” and the film “Night World” grossed about $20,000 for the week’s engagement at the RKO Albee. At the Capitol, which had a higher price scale, “Rio Rita,” with “Huddle” on screen, had registered $66,000 in a single week booking.

dave-bronx™ on December 29, 2006 at 9:25 am

Warren, that interior shot of the Albee auditorium looks very similar to the auditorium of the RKO Palace in Cleveland. Check out the Palace and see what you think.
View link

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on December 29, 2006 at 7:37 am

“Closed for alterations”. They weren’t kidding.

1, 2

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on December 29, 2006 at 6:24 am

A rare view of the auditorium. The Albee was one of three large theatres in downtown Brooklyn designed by Thomas W. Lamb, preceded by the Strand and Loew’s Metropolitan:

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 30, 2006 at 4:25 pm

Furthermore… the introduction above should be corrected. Edward F. Albee did not die in 1914. Nor was he born in 1867. It was Benjamin Franklin Keith, Mr. Albee’s partner, who died in 1914 (having been born 1846. Mr. Albee, born in 1857, survived until 1930, long enough to see the company he co-founded with Mr. Keith merge with Martin Beck’s Orpheum Circuit to form Keith-Albee-Orpheum which would quickly lead to partnership with RCA with the formation of RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum) in 1928.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 30, 2006 at 4:11 pm

By the way, great photo from Lost Memory back on November 11, 2005, that seemed to escape comment from anyone. Lost comments that the shot is from the 1960’s, but the place is already shuttered with the marquee referring passersby to the RKO Kenmore and displaying a sign for the Albee Square Mall that would replace the building. We know the theater was open as late as 1974, thanks to RobertR’s posting of the ad for Pam Grier’s “Coffee” on July 4, 2005, so the photo must be from the mid-‘70’s. Does anyone know exactly when the theater closed and when it was demolished?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on September 30, 2006 at 4:05 pm

I found a small item in the NY Times' online archives dated October 1st, 1922, concerning the plans for this theater. As William posted back on June 13th, the theater was to be called the Orpheum, even though it was intended “as a memorial to the late B.F. Keith, founder of the Keith Vaudeville Circuit.” It seems that Keith Circiut President Edward F. Albee had announced that the plans for the new theater and ten-story office building were complete and that the project would cost some $3 million tp construct. Ironic that the theater would come to be named after Mr. Albee in the end, despite the planned Orpheum moniker and intention that the house would memorialize Mr. Keith!

Just to give some historical perspective on the subject of conservation, the article also mentions how difficult it was to assemble the site for the project. “There were sixteen old buildings on the plot, all of them Brooklyn landmarks.”

steveg1 on September 15, 2006 at 4:34 pm

My parents met and were married while working at the Albee in the early 1930’s. The ushers all wore uniforms (dark blazers, white pants). My father was head usher and inspected his “troops”, military style, each day. Every week during the depression there was a sizable raffle, which filled the 3,200 seats of the Albee as well as the other RKO theaters in town. There was an impressive bit of theatrics with telephones ringing from the other RKO theaters and my father would announce the winning ticket number from the stage.

When advertising a new movie they sometimes had a convoy of cars down the avenue. One car had loud speakers promoting the film. And, in at least one case a pretty woman (my mother) was the cheesecake interest.