RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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dave-bronx™ on September 14, 2004 at 12:15 pm

Several life-long New Yorkers I knew in the 80s called it ‘da Keets'
never mentioning Flushing, and everyone knew what they were talking about.

Bway on September 14, 2004 at 10:56 am

That was also probably as to not to get it confused with the RKO Keith’s Richmond Hill. Many people confuse the two.

BoxOfficeBill on September 14, 2004 at 10:23 am

Thanks, Warren, for the nicely researched double-bills. Yes, ‘52 was a flop. I’m shocked to realize that I’d seen only two of those billings day-dating at my local nabe (RKO Dyker)that year, even though memory has tricked me into thinking that as a movie-mad ten-year-old I went to the Dyker nearly every week. (I did see six of those features at other theaters, however, some first-run in Manhattan, others third- or subsequent-run in B'klyn.) One downside of seeing films first-run in Manhattan was missing some curious co-features that have meanwhile achieved cult-status: “Rancho Notorious,” “Three for Bedroom C,” “The Thief,” “Beware My Lovely.” One surprise is the reversal of status that sometimes happened in double-billing: that year, “Wait till the Sun Shines Nellie” was a prestige opener at the Roxy (with an ice show on stage!), while “Don’t Bother to Knock” snuck into the Globe: then Monroe became a sensation, so that “Don’t Bother” (deservingly)got top billing when it reached the boroughs. And what a sad end to Irene Dunne’s fame to go out on a second-billing in “It Grows on Trees.” For the record, the two programs that I saw at RKO were “Les Mis” & “Wife’s Best Friend” on a chilly, rainy autumn day (late in the year, implying that I hadn’t been in that theater for at least ten months!) and “Snows of Kilimanjaro” & “Raiders,” which I recall as the Christmas-week show (and remember darkly for having eaten popcorn, the first time ever, which made me sick later that evening—uugh). I’m sure that I saw many, many more films at the Loew’s circuit that year. For RKO, yes, '52 was a bummer.

cb229 on August 26, 2004 at 5:55 pm

I have searched high and low for photos, but there isnt
much available, as the theater was locked up for so many years.
Here is a two page article about the current state of
the theater with info. about the upcoming changes.It also
has a small picture of the lobby.
View link
The auditorium is going to be demolished as it is in horrendous
condition.The moron who owned it for almost twenty years
tore out a crucial wall, leaving the theater partially exposed
to the elements, thus the massive destruction.The lobby and mezzanine will be saved an incorporated into RKO Plaza which is
scheduled for completion in 2006.

longislandmovies on August 24, 2004 at 10:32 pm

CINEPLEX was the company that saved the movie bsns in N.Y. and many other places.Not until CINEPLEX ODEON come along was anyone restoring or putting any money into theaters.

dave-bronx™ on August 24, 2004 at 10:10 pm

The RKO-CW people sold this theatre just days before they sold the rest of the company to Cineplex. When The Grand Pooh-bah of Cineplex found out he went to the guy who bought it and offered him the sun, the moon and the stars to buy it back, but was refused. While I generally view Cineplex and The Grand Pooh-bah with contempt for ruining so many decent theatres New York, I will admit that on these big old palaces they did do a decent job of restoration [e.g. the lobby of the Loew’s Met in Brooklyn]. This would have been one that I would have been glad to see him take over.

It’s a shame that the slimeball who let the Keith’s deteriorate wasn’t jailed years ago for his disregard of the landmarks law. And the City of New York is culpable for letting him get away with it. The City could have declared eminant domain and bought it from this guy and sell it to someone committed to restoration, like Cineplex.

Bway on August 24, 2004 at 6:01 pm

Much has been talked about here about the lobby of the Keith’s. Any word on what the main auditorium’s condition is in? From what I gather it’s not that great of condition, maybe even totally trashed. Does anything remain of the walls or ceiling, or anything? I would love to see photos of the Keith’s both in it’s heyday or current shambles, anyone know of any available on the net?

sticky on August 23, 2004 at 10:42 am

I rememmber attending my first Rock n Roll show at the Flushing RKO. It was emceed by Murray the K deejay from 1010 WINS. The show featured Wicked Wilson Pickett and introduced two new bands from England, Cream and The Who. I remember Pickett strutting up the aisles with his mike cable trailing behind singing “Funky Broadway” and “Midnight Hour”. Cream and the Who did only a couple of numbers and were LOUD and raw but pumped up the crowd.

shalow on July 15, 2004 at 4:03 pm

I remember going to the rock and roll shows at the Keiths. What a great memory and theater. Going to a show was truly and event.

trapdoor on June 30, 2004 at 8:32 pm

The Keiths continues to stand tall and proud at the juncture
of Main and Northern.However,
its in absolute shambles at this point.The theater
portion of the building is in total disrepair and is
going to be torn down by Boymelgreen Developers to make
way for residential building and some retail.The lobby
is in bad shape but restoreable.It has landmark status
and will be restored to its original glory.It will be
incorporated into the new structure.It is a very slow process
as Boymelgreen is working with community officials to
come up with the best possible plan for the site.The last plan
was rejected due to its size and scale.Here is good story on the
condition of the lobby.Although its been bruised and battered
by years of neglect and deliberate actions by the former owner of the property,it is in suprisingly good shape.Here’s the article:
View link

FrankCastle on May 17, 2004 at 4:22 pm

The idiot who destroyed the interior of that theatre should be hung on main street! What a disaster. That place should have been preserved with landmark status and made into a museum. What a great place to watch a movie. Of course most of the people who live there now weren’t around, probably not even in this COUNTRY, when it was open. What a sad, sad outcome for such a glorious palace…

exny1 on May 16, 2004 at 11:45 am

thanks Warren, your right, it was Pitkin, on Pitkin Ave.

exny1 on May 15, 2004 at 8:14 pm

I was there many many times, it was a beautiful theater. When I was a kid, 50’s 60’s, during intermission the sky would actually move, or atleast look liked it moved. Years later, it had stopped and the theater owner told me it was in need of repair. My mom told me there was a theater in brooklyn, long since closed that did the same thing. I think it was the Pickford ave?? Not sure, anyway, the Fluching Keith’s was and still is the best theater I have ever been in.

mgeesgirl on April 19, 2004 at 4:03 pm

the last time i was there – was to see the movie “popeye” with robin williams…

mgeesgirl on April 19, 2004 at 4:02 pm

are there any pictures of the inside of the keiths??? i was young and the last movie was “popeye” and i don’t really remember much.. just that it was grand…

avkarr on March 21, 2004 at 4:05 pm

There was a building to the immmediate W with a facade that was shaped in the letter D – it was for the Deborah foundation (a group founded to fight TB). They ran Bingo and Adult Dances, presumably to raise funds. I thought there was a clinic there too but it wasnt a hospital per se. The closest hospital was Parsons Hospital.

avkarr on March 20, 2004 at 7:20 pm

It was the biggest & best theatre in downtown Flushing. I saw many
1st run films of every genre and the size just amplified the
laughs/screams of the patrons. Remeber seeing LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, THE FRONT, WILLIE WONKA to name a few. Also Mel Brooks' SILENT MOVIE in the right hand side orchestra section, to this day was the only comedy I have ever seen jaded, too-cool NYers go bananas laughing over. Chester37a is correct, RUNNING SCARED was the last flick shown there (which I also saw, there)-I used to drive my Mom to Bingo at the hospital next door and for years the posters hung in the displays.The story of the Keith’s is the story of Flushing, change happened but not necessarily for the better.

William on February 25, 2004 at 2:06 pm

The address is 129-43 Northern Boulevard.

RobertR on February 25, 2004 at 1:13 pm

The fountain is gone according to one newspaper report, I’m sure the crooked developer sold it before he drove the bulldozer through the lobby.

mp775 on February 25, 2004 at 12:04 pm

Reported in today’s New York Times, the owner of the property, Boymelgreen Developers, have propsed a 19-story condominium tower for the site. The landmarked lobby and grand foyer would be preserved behind a 45,000-pound, 50' high, 100' wide glass curtain wall on the building’s Northern Boulevard frontage and would house restaurants and retail shops. An exhibit in the building would display artifacts salvaged from the theater.

Chester37a on January 16, 2004 at 6:36 am

The last motion picture I saw there was a “buddy-picture” called “Running Scared”. It starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines, …with Jimmy Smits as the heavy. I think it may have been the last film screened there because, when they shut the joint down the posters for said film were still up. I can remember passing by the theatre and seeing them fading from the sunlight. I saw some fun movies there over the years(Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Airplane,etc.) It was a shame to see it just waste away. I hate passing by that place whenever I’m in town.

loraliz on December 10, 2003 at 2:01 am

Bernie at the Organ was a regular live feature at the RKO Keith’s for many years and well loved.

WilliamMcQuade on October 10, 2003 at 4:09 pm

I work in Flushing & pass by it daily. I got a peek inside & the lobby ( the landmark portion) is basically bare walls. So much for landmark protection. In NYC, it is all about money. History be damned

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 16, 2003 at 10:24 pm

The theater is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is situated on Northern Boulevard opposite Main Street.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 16, 2003 at 10:21 pm

The Kieth’s was an absolutely spectacular theater. Even as a triplex, seeing a film here (particularly in the intact balcony auditorium) was a special treat. The theater actually survivied until 1986, when it was closed by the local real estate magnate and vandal who attempted to gut the theater despite it’s official landmark status and convert the space into a retail mall. There has been much legal and civic turmoil regarding it’s fate over the last 17 years. The operators of the nearby historic Flushing Town Hall have been rumored to be interested in acquiring the theater to restore it to legitemate use as a cultural center, but any efforts there have been thwarted by legal entanglements and lack of funding.

Recently, a deal was announced whereby a commercial interest would redevelop the site for mixed usage but would restore the theater’s landmarked sections to their original glory. Unfortunately, NYC officials did not have the wisdom to give landmark status to the gorgeous auditorium (with it’s atmospheric Moroccan details), but at least the stunning lobby and grand foyer will be preserved under the new plan. I wonder if such a restoration would include a replica of the original fountain that was the centerpiece of the lobby. It was removed years before the landmark commission ever considered the theater for designation, replaced by a large candy-counter.