RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 7:47 pm

On Tuesday 30 January 1951, Bela “Dracula” Lugosi presented his in person Horror and Magic Stage show at RKO Keiths. Currently I am conducting research on all things Lugosi; if anyone out there actually saw this show and/or has memorabilia (poster, handbill, photos) related to this show, please contact Bill at Thanks in advance for any assistance!

SWCphotography on December 4, 2012 at 12:22 am

Center Proscenium with damage evident
Developer instructions:
demolish, subdivide and replace with sheetrock

BobbyS on December 2, 2012 at 9:24 pm

The fact that the RKO Keith’s is still standing today is truely amazing to me. After all the years and all the drama, this grand lady refuses to give up…..

WilliamMcQuade on December 2, 2012 at 12:09 pm

This saga will never end. Not content with destroying the Loews Triboro, Democrat Donald Manes (Queens Borough President) turned down landmark designation for the full theater. He gave a sop to preservationists by designating the lobby only. Flash forward to today . This & the Triboru were the result of political shady deals .I worked on both preservation efforts & would never waste my time like this again.

SWCphotography on December 1, 2012 at 10:17 pm

After 26 years of neglect there has been
a lot of damage to this theatre.
But then there are two sides to every coin:

BobbyS on October 5, 2012 at 11:32 am

This is just like the serials that I am sure played at this theater in the 1930’s Saturday after Saturday always with"to be continued" theme. Finacing problems seems to be the problem in many start-up projects, especially entertainment venues. This “poor theater” has gone through so much in the last 30 years.

LuisV on October 5, 2012 at 11:12 am

The theater still stands even though all approvals are in place for construction to begin. As per below, the developer is in arrears on taxes and must come up with about half a million before he can begin. He does not yet have financing lined up. The fun never stops. This article is from the Queens Times Ledger:

RKO owner paying back tax man

The owner of the crumbling RKO Keith’s Theatre in downtown Flushing still owes more than $380,000 in unpaid back taxes and entered into a payment plan earlier this year to prevent the city from putting a lien on the property.

Developer Patrick Thompson is seeking to build a 16-story, mixed-use building around the landmarked lobby of the historic theater, at 135-35 Northern Blvd., and is trying to secure finances to get a shovel in the ground at the site of the $160 million project.

In March, TimesLedger Newspapers reported Thompson owed the city Department of Finance nearly $400,000 for 2011 unpaid property taxes. In April, Thompson entered into a payment plan in order to balance the books. At that time, he owed about $373,600, according to Finance.

But the most current records show Thompson still owes about $385,000 — which is actually $11,500 more than the initial balance when he entered into the agreement, according to department records.

“He’s on the way to paying it,” said Michael Nussbaum, spokesman for Thompson.

According to the department, if the developer had not entered into a payment plan before May 17, the city would have placed the property on its tax lien sale list, meaning that a third party could have potentially taken possession of the land.

Not only does Thompson need to fork over installments to chip away at the outstanding balance, he also needs to pay taxes for this current year. In total, if he were to pay off everything he owes for the payment plan and his current taxes for the rest of the year, the developer would be required to write a check for roughly $500,000 to the city, records show. That is more than double the yearly property tax value of the parcel.

The hefty bill comes at a time when the community is questioning the theater’s fate, since Thompson received all the required approvals to start building in May, but still does not have enough funding to start construction.

“We’re still proceeding with the financing, and they are still proceeding to get the thing done,” Nussbaum said of the project, adding that there has long been an unnamed developer Thompson has partnered with for the project.

The most recent approval from the Federal Aviation Administration is valid until October 2013. If Thompson does not start building by then, the FAA will have to go through another review process to determine if the proposal poses a threat to aviation, since the structure lies in the glide path of LaGuardia Airport.

BobbyS on October 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

Is this theater still standing? Or has the wrecking ball begun to swing?

SWCphotography on July 29, 2012 at 8:31 am

On this day 80 years ago

Jeffrey1955 on July 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Thanks for that link, Tinseltoes! The story about how that “prison” double bill was promoted in Flushing is even more illuminating than the photo — though “IN PERSON – SING WITH ‘BERNIE’ AT THE MIGHTY ORGAN” on the marquee gives another sense of the flavor of the times.

BobbyS on June 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Tinseltoes and SWC and Jeffrey1955 keep the RKO Keiths “alive” and thanks to you there is a glimmer of hope however slight…One seat remains, how sad after thousands were there! Milk glass white with hang on lettering started in the 40’s here in Chicago and most of the big houses here had it installed by 1945.

SWCphotography on June 19, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Nice find Tinseltoes, always wondered what the source of that photo was. BTW not all the seats were replaced apparently some of the cast iron originals were left in the balcony. Ironically of the 2,971 seats in the RKO only one remains – the original style – having been tossed from the balcony and caught in plaster backing structure, where it has hung for 26 years:

robboehm on June 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm

I would doubt it. By 1951 that type of lettering was no longer used. The background was white opaque glass and the raised letters affixed on tracks.

Jeffrey1955 on June 19, 2012 at 4:28 pm

So apparently, the massive marquee that covered the original curved one was a part of the “thorough modernization” of 1951?

SWCphotography on June 9, 2012 at 9:40 pm

What is proposed for the RKO Keith’s is even more of a tragedy for Flushing than what has been done so far.

BobbyS on June 9, 2012 at 12:49 am

These photos are just amazing!! So much beauty remains. It makes you sick to think this could all be gone in a matter of months.

SWCphotography on June 8, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Wall fixture in the 784 square foot Men’s Smoking Room. This and most of the theatre would be demolished to make way for a proposed apartment building that would have 357 units with an average area of 787 square feet.

SWCphotography on June 6, 2012 at 7:04 pm

The “bulldozed” West stairway from the promenade

SWCphotography on May 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

Oops! There goes another chunk of landmark.

SWCphotography on May 16, 2012 at 11:11 pm

The scrupulously maintained landmark

SWCphotography on May 13, 2012 at 10:19 am


Jeffrey1955 on May 13, 2012 at 1:02 am

At least the Tribune seems to have some grasp of the facts, unlike the Courier. Ross Barkan actually notes that the theater has fallen into “disrepair” instead of acting like it no longer exists, acknowledges the efforts of preservationists, and never even mentions that PR crap about “preserving” the lobby. A far cry from the pathetic “journalism” of Melissa Chan — who never bothered to respond.

Jeffrey1955 on May 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I just posted a scathing comment to that Queens Courier story. Let’s see what Melissa Chan has to say in reply!

SWCphotography on March 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm

It’s not that Thomas Huang didn’t try to destroy the theatre, it’s just that he was just so cheap he hired incompetent day laborers to do the job using hand held hammers. It is thanks to this method of “demolition” that so much of the theatre survives to this day.