RKO Bushwick Theatre

1396 Broadway,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Showing 76 - 100 of 415 comments

LuisV on March 6, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Joe G…….That sounds AWESOME!!!!!!

MPol on March 6, 2009 at 10:46 am

Sounds like you had lots of fun back in your youth, Joe G.

JoeG on March 6, 2009 at 12:06 am

Hello, sorry I’m coming to this party a little late. Been hanging out over at the Colonial Theater farther down Broadway. Peter K. knows me from over there. I was an old habitue of the Bushwick when I was a kid, saw “Phantom of the Opera” with Herbert Lom, on a double bill with “Night Creatures” with Peter Cushing, both scared the hell out of me. I also remember the lobby display for “Day of the Triffids,” a box about 9 feet tall with a rhythmic pounding inside, supposedly a Triffid trying to get out. Anyway, I noticed the discussion about churches converted to nightclubs/discos. Here’s another one: The Sanctuary, a deconsecrated Lutheran church on West 43rd Street and Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. I partied there many times in my wanton youth, and a wanton place it was, way, way wicked long before anyone dreamed of Studio 54. Had a mural up where the choir loft would be, of the devil with his arm around a naked nymph, his hand on her breast. The pews were moved to the sides of the church to make room for the dance floor. The DJ booth was up where the altar would be. A couple of brief scenes in the movie “Klute” were filmed there. Today I think it’s an off-Bway theater.

Panzer65 on February 21, 2009 at 11:19 am

Indeed, some conversions do work out for the better of the building’s life, especially the ones you mentioned John. Regarding the Bushwick, it is a shame that such a unique asymmetrical building was left to decay after the church decided to leave. At least someone recognized this fact and turned it into the beautiful school that stands tall and proud today.

johndereszewski on February 21, 2009 at 9:03 am

This is a very interesting discussion. With regards to “good” movie conversions, you can add the Meserole in Greenpoint. While it now functions as a drug store – and before that a roller sksting rink -the main elements of the theater, including the screen and stage area and part of the theater’s “slant” are still very much in evidence. Also, the balcony is fully intact. All of these items are discussed at length on the Meserole’s page.

A very interesting bank transfer occurred many years ago on the Wiliamsburg Bridge Plaza, where the white circular bank situated just north of the enterence was converted into a Russian Orthodox Basilica". I’ve never been able to get inside, since it is almost always closed, but it must present a fascinating mix of classical marble and Russian icons!

Before returning to topic, I need to mention a wonderdul conversion that I saw in Quebec. Specifically, an old Anglican Church was most successfully converted into the local library. All of the liturgical objects – including the altar, stained glass windows and memorial plaques were retained, with the book cases and computer terminals replacing the pews. The building is also surrounded by the old burial grounds.

Getting back to the Bushwick, while it is unfortunate that the exterior has been lost, at least it is being put to a highly valuable use – and we still have the wonderful exterior. It could have been a lot worse.

Panzer65 on February 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm

The theater was called the Acme,located on Myrtle ave. in Queens. The building is in very good shape,its a small neighborhood type venue that had a renovation and it looks quite well for its age, especially considering it received an exterior paint job of yellow.
The remnants include the marquee,the columns and a very intricate molding that runs along the edge of the ceiling.Finally, some of the sloped floor still exists at the checkout counters. One day while doing some shopping and exploring, my cart rolled away as I was checking out!

LuisV on February 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Panzer65…How does it look? Which theater was it?

Peter K….Yes, there are still several of the old Banking Halls still serving their original purpose. Ridgewood is one, but the most prominent one for me is the Apple Bank main branch on Broadway and 74th Street. It is truly spectacular.

Panzer65 on February 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm

LuisV in reply to supermarkets usually doing total guts upon renovation, the Acme on Myrtle ave.,which is now a supermarket, still has some of its theater features intact.

PeterKoch on February 20, 2009 at 3:27 pm

The Ridgewood Savings Bank main office building at 71-02 Forest Avenue in Ridgewood is still Ridgewood Savings Bank.

LuisV on February 20, 2009 at 10:27 am

I have recently realized that more banking halls have been reused than I thought. Besides the banks that have been turned into catering halls (Citibank Wall Street, Greenwich Savings Broadway, Bowery Savings on 42nd Street and on the Bowery) I have come across the following other uses.

Trader Joe’s in downtown Brooklyn is inside an old Independence Savings Bank Bldg. Balducci’s market is inside an old NY Bank for Savings branch on 8th Ave and 14th St and right across the Street there is a day spa “Nickel” with condo residences above in another old banking hall. The old Williamsburgh Savings Bank headquarters on Flatbush Avenue is still for rent and awaiting its new retail life.

I don’t believe that any old theaters have been successfully turned into supermarkets and by successfully I mean that the architecture has been preserved and integrated into its new use as a food hall. Usually, when a supermarket takes over it is a gut renovation.

Bway on February 19, 2009 at 10:59 pm

Yes, there are beautiful murals on the ceiling of the Hammerstein Ballroom. I think the procenium was messed up, and all the opera boxes are gone, but a lot of the theater is intact too.

LuisV on February 19, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Roseland was not a theater! I too have danced here many a time and had an amazing time. Webster Hall looks like a theater, it even has a stage, but it was more of a meeting hall and so it is not on CT either. Webster Hall was used as the theater in “To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” I have yet to attend an event at the Hammerstein Ballroom. I hear its beautiful.

Bway on February 19, 2009 at 4:12 pm

I wonder where that church disco in Basic Instict was, it had to be a real disco made out of a church.
Luis, I have also been in many theaters post-theater too. The Hammerstein Ballroom being one, I saw a few concerts there. I think that was the Manhattan Opera House. It’s not on this site because it never showed film unfortunately.
Also, was Roseland which has concerts ever a theater? I have been there a few times, and think it was a theater.

LuisV on February 19, 2009 at 10:12 am

Wow! I’m happy to say that that was before my time, but I already feel old when I talk about Studio 54, Palladium, Red Parrot, Saint, Roxy, Sound Factory, Limelight, Copacabana, Danceteria, Tunnel, Area, Regines, Visage, 2001 Odyssey, Underground, Xenon, Webster Hall, etc, etc. It was the golden age of Discos and much like the theater palaces they will never be built like this again. I doubt that New York will ever see a return of the spectacular clubs that defined New York in the 80’s and early 90’s. They simply will never build them like that ever again. Manhattan has become too expensive. There are no more abandoned theaters and warehouses to be converted into clubs. I feel fortunate that I was able to enjoy them when they were in their prime which is something that I can’t say about the old movie palaces. By the time I started going to theaters in the 70’s, the vast majority of the theaters were already on their last legs, grimy and suffering from decades of neglect as they struggled to hold on. Ironically, I only got to see theaters like the Commodore, Forum, Gallo Opera House, Henry Miller, Academy of Music once they were converted to discoteques. I’m grateful to have seen them as they were all beautiful theaters that were adaptively resused and keep open for many more years than they otherwise would have been. Today, only the old Studio 54 (which actually never showed films) is still with us today; restored to a formal Broadway house.

Moondog on February 18, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Another church turned disco: remember the ‘Electric Circus’ in Greenwich Village (St. Marks Pl.) during the sixties. If I remember right it was previously a Greek Orthdox church.

PeterKoch on February 17, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Thanks, LuisV. From Sunday morning fervor and faith to Saturday Night Fever.

LuisV on February 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

The only other church turned disco in real life that I can think of was the Limelight in London, which I believe might still be open almost 30 years after it opened.

PeterKoch on February 17, 2009 at 12:51 pm

There was also the church turned disco in the 1992 film “Basic Instinct”.

PeterKoch on February 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Speaking of sacrilege, the RKO Bushwick became a fictional “church” of the Santeria cult when “The Believers” was filmed there in 1986-87.

LuisV on February 17, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Bway, I knew that you were kidding, but there are a lot of people who really did consider this sacriligious. We’re lucky we live in New York where religion doesn’t hold much sway. You probably wouldn’t have been able to do this in any other major city in the US with the exception of of our country’s other greatest city: San Francisco.

Back to the photo of the Bushwick: it’s funny that I said that the photo was from 70’s Bushwick, but in fact, it was the early 90’s! New York in general, and Bushwick in particular, has seen incredible strides in the last 15 – 20 years.

Also, Bway, since you’re interested in adaptive reuses, I remember going to a club in downtown Los Angeles in the late 80’s called “The Exchange” which was a disco created from the old Los Angeles Stock Exchange Bldg. All I really remember was that there were really high ceilings and a lot of interior greek columns (I think Corinthian). Oh, and that I had a lot of fun!

Bway on February 16, 2009 at 10:17 pm

Ooops, sorry, forgot to put the link to that photo near the RKO Bushwick:

View link

Bway on February 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Luis, I wasn’t seriously saying it was “sacrelige”, I meant that more as a joke, but it is an odd site to say the least. I think there was a club in Southern California also that was once a church. I totally agree, I actually am highly interested in buildings that got converted from one use to another, and a church is particularly interesting when converted, even more so than a theater.
There’s a historic church in Jamaica by the Jamaica Center building on Jamaica Ave that was preserved and converted into a theater, after sitting abandoned for decades.

As for the NY Times photo mentioned, yes, there is a 1992 photo in the NY Times, and in the background is the in shambles RKO Bushwick Theater. Bushwick has sure come a long way since that photo was taken. Now the RKO Bushwick is restored (exterior), a McDonalds stands on the vacant lot, and a Walgreens where that horrible abandoned building is:

LuisV on February 16, 2009 at 2:41 pm

In today’s NY Times, there is a great photo of the ruined Bushwick in the bad old 70’s. The burnt out storefront is where the shiny new McDonald’s is today.

LuisV on February 16, 2009 at 2:39 pm

The Limelight’s transformation into a disco was truly amazing and incredibly well done. The Stained Glass windows were lit from the outside and so they were clearly visible to the dancers as they shimied where the pews once were.

There is nothing sacriligious about is. This church was deconsecrated before it became a disco and the church, now known as the Limelight and Avalon was able to be enjoyed by many more people over the decades then when it was a church. It is beautiful architecture that was adaptively reused when it was no longer able to serve its original purpose; much as many a theater.

The list of theaters that were spared the wrecking ball for many years in New York is significant: The Academy of Music (Palladium), Loews Commodore (The Saint), The Forum (Club USA), Henry Miller (Xenon), Gallo Opera House (Studio 54). Alas, the ball eventually came for all but Studio 54. But their use as clubs extended their lives, in some cases by at least a decade.

Panzer65 on February 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Indeed Broadway..maybe that can fall into the “Only in New York” category.