RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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Bway
Bway on August 25, 2004 at 2:01 am

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
sticky on August 23, 2004 at 6:42 pm

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
shalow on July 16, 2004 at 12:03 am

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
trapdoor on July 1, 2004 at 4:32 am

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
FrankCastle on May 18, 2004 at 12:22 am

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
exny1 on May 16, 2004 at 7:45 pm

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 16, 2004 at 3:10 pm

The Brooklyn theatre that your mother remembered was almost certainly Loew’s Pitkin, which had the same architect as Keith’s Flushing in Thomas W. Lamb. Both theatres were in the “atmospheric” style. The clouds that seemed to be moving across the ceiling came from projectors on the side walls of the balcony.

exny1
exny1 on May 16, 2004 at 4:14 am

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
mgeesgirl on April 20, 2004 at 12:03 am

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

mgeesgirl
mgeesgirl on April 20, 2004 at 12:02 am

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
avkarr on March 22, 2004 at 12:05 am

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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 21, 2004 at 3:39 pm

What hospital was next door to the Keith’s Flushing? I recall only retail stores on both sides of the entrance and throughout the rest of the block.

avkarr
avkarr on March 21, 2004 at 3:20 am

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
William on February 25, 2004 at 10:06 pm

The address is 129-43 Northern Boulevard.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 25, 2004 at 9:45 pm

The map and address for this theatre are incorrect. Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact address, but it is probably 129-?? Northern Boulevard (north side). Queens street numbers have a hyphen between them. The theatre is at the junction of Northern Boulevard with Main Street. The map shows the theatre several blocks west of that.

RobertR
RobertR on February 25, 2004 at 9:13 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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 25, 2004 at 9:11 pm

If I recall correctly, the lobby and grand foyer, including the free-standing fountain, were plundered and/or severely damaged prior to the landmarking, so I can’t imagine what will be displayed behind that proposed glass curtain wall.

mp775
mp775 on February 25, 2004 at 8:04 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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 1, 2004 at 4:50 pm

The Keith-Albee Flushing, advertised as “The Mmost Unique Playhouse in the East” and claiming “3,500 Perfect Seats,” had its grand opening at 1:00 PM on Christmas Day, 1928, with continuous showings of vaudeville and a feature movie. The inaugural program (which ran through December 29th) was the silent “Three Week Ends,” starring Clara Bow, with vaudeville headed by Helen Brown, 16 Albertina Rasch Dancers, Chic Yorke & Rose King, Evans & Mayer, and “other Keith-Albee attractions.” Subsequent trade paper reports reduced the Flushing’s seating capacity to a round number of 3,000, though it was actually 2,975 or so. In any case, the theatre was much too large for the community it served, but it eventually became profitable during the WWII attendance boom and the rapid post-war development of North Eastern Queens…One of its most beautiful architectural features was the grand foyer, which you entered from the street after walking through a low-ceilinged lobby. Suddenly you found yourself in an oval area that was two stories high and had a curved ceiling decorated like a clear blue sky. Two winding marble staircases lead to the mezzanine promenade. In the center of the foyer’s floor was a free-standing fountain and pool, topped by a figure of Cupid and with sculpted dolphins behind the streams of water which poured down from the vents above Cupid’s head. The pool itself was illuminated by multi-colored lights around its sides and was stocked with real goldfish. When the theatre finally closed, the fountain/pool mysteriously “vanished,” and may now be gracing some millionaire’s estate.

Chester37a
Chester37a on January 16, 2004 at 2:36 pm

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
loraliz on December 10, 2003 at 10:01 am

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

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on October 11, 2003 at 12:09 am

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 17, 2003 at 6:24 am

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 17, 2003 at 6:21 am

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.

thenson702
thenson702 on August 15, 2002 at 4:31 pm

The Keith’s was the theatre that I saw all of many early eigthies classic horror flicks. the theatre had been cut into three sections. the balcony was where the expected to be popular flick would show and the lower level was divided in two. I saw all of these films opening weekend, Indiana Jones,Heavy Metal, Howlling,Friday the 13th, Jason,Empire Strikes back to name a few. As I sat in the balcony I always wonder who would build a room soo large for trashy films and how much they must have paid someone to paint the ceiling. On the lower level there where vents that you could see to a lit basement floor which I was told that there were corridors down there from the Vaudeville days.