Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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RobertR on March 31, 2004 at 12:47 pm

By location alone, a restored Brooklyn Paramount stands a better chance of survival then a restored Kings. Downtown is on an upswing, with talks of moving a pro basketball team there. Flatbush would be a harder sell. Dont get me wrong, I was in the Kings a few times as a kid, my aunt lived there before she married my uncle. As a kid I remember gasping as I walked in the door. It is a sad statement about NY but we tear down everything. You mentioned we have a lot of theatres but we have more Zeigfelds then we do Roxys.

JimRankin on March 31, 2004 at 12:14 pm

$50 million is a small estimate for the extensive work needed to fix this wonderful 2-½ acres of seats in a six story high auditorium. The 4-story-high draperies that once made the looming walls look less foreboding would require the building of an assembly barn for this scale of work, since the old drapery houses that could do such work are long gone, and those few existing today do not have the perspective, experience, or talent to reproduce such monumental work, and if they could, it would cost at least $5,000,000 for just the draperies alone! (Craftspeople today will not work for the 25 cents per hour that they did in the Twenties!) And even if you could find someone willing to risk about $75 to 100 million on this space, where would the parking for the thousands attending come from?? (Americans are not in the habit of walking, even from a bus stop on the corner!) Perhaps there is available land adjacent that could be purchased, and perhaps the city would allow a parking structure to be built there, but that would add considerably to the cost. Reportedly, the electric company will not even turn on the power until someone pays the big back bills of the former operator, and the problems mount up from there. Yes, the KINGS was a most glorious movie palace, but unless TV and videos somehow disappear tomorrow, there is not likely to be found anywhere an audience large enough and CONSISTANT enough to support the theatre, which would be taxed again just as soon as a private party got ownership from the city. We must face the fact that the only reason it still stands today is that the city doesn’t want to spend upwards of $10 million to have it demolished, though they may have to do that if it becomes a refuge for undesirables in deteriorating conditions, as it inevitably will with time.

Will the equally wonderful BROOKLYN PARAMOUNT become available in a condition that enables it to be restored? I fervently hope so, but many of the same problems confront that situation as confront the KINGS. Where will the THOUSANDS of people come from to support the place? It is tax free now, but it is highly unlikely that it will remain so under new conditions! And taxes are just one of the expenses such huge facilities face, since just to pay for the utilities for a year would bankrupt the average business. (For example, few movie palaces had any insulation in the walls and ceilings to contain heat, so heating costs would be astronomical). The only real hope is for a ‘sugar daddy’ such as Donald Trump who presumably wouldn’t care if he lost millions each year, since he would be so in love with the place that he would keep it just for nostalgia and as a public monument to a day and age when people cared about such things and would support them with their hard-earned money. Now the people spend for rock spectacles and sporting events, not theatres, and even the much smaller, and therefore much more efficient theatres are in a financial bind as our culture degenerates, and people no longer support the arts in sufficient numbers to maintain them in any large scale.

For those of you in love with the KINGS, there was a documentary released in 1979 called “Memoirs of a Movie Palace” as a photographic tour of the KINGS, and it may be possible to find it in some library. Through such, it may be possible to relive some of those days of lost glory, but don’t hold your breath about reviving any such behemoths in our crass, and expensive, day and age. Unlike most cities, New York already has an abundance of theatres, and it is highly unlikely that the tax payers there will vote to pay to maintain another one.

P.S. The KINGS is one of my favorite theatres, simply from having seen it in photos and the documentary, so I am not being negative, simply realistic, sad to say. Oh to have a ‘time machine’ to be able to travel back to those days of architectural majesty!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 31, 2004 at 10:04 am

I believe that it’s currently owned by The City of New York, which has been trying to find a buyer for some years now. Sure, it would be wonderful to re-open the Kings as a gift to Brooklyn, but who’s going to put up the $50 million or upwards that would be required to do so?

garry on March 30, 2004 at 10:52 pm

It would be a gift to Brooklyn to re-open this wonderful movie palace. A group should be formed such as the friends of the Loews in Jersey City, who are doing miracles in their restoration, to take over the Kings and revive it. The rebirth of this palace would be a true cultural gift for current and future generations. Who currently owns this theater?

Marcus on February 23, 2004 at 12:14 pm

Could be good news for the Kings: The New York Times recently did an article on the Ditmas/Flatbush area in their “If You’re Thinking of Living In” series. Many people priced out of Park Slope are moving south of the park, into the lovely single Victorian homes in the area. I have driven around there and it is definitely more gentrified, diverse and safe than it was about 5 years ago when I lived nearby. Would be fantastic if the theater followed in the footsteps of the Loews Jersey, and became a focal point for the community.

Mike326 on February 9, 2004 at 10:12 pm

And as I understand it, the gymnasium for LIU is the auditorium for the former Brooklyn Paramount, and that is, I imagine, unlikely to change.
As far as the Kings…
its for me very interesting that it has stayed intact as a building for so long, as opposed to other movie palaces which have either been demolished or turned into stores, etc.
I am forever hoping, that the grand Kings will be restored.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 9, 2004 at 3:57 pm

As I understand it, much of the auditorium of the Brooklyn Paramount still exists, though some of it is beneath the floor of the top portion that was sectioned off for a basketball court. Most of the lobby areas, including staircases and the mezzanine promenade, are also still there and occupied by a cafeteria and offices.

VincentParisi on February 9, 2004 at 2:10 pm

Warren this is major news for historic preservationists. I imagine though that Brooklyn Collge will want to sell the land and make a nice chunk of money for itself. A condo high-rise will do very nicely there. I guess Brooklyn historical societies should take note or this will diappear before you can blink. But how much is left of the theater?

bruceanthony on February 9, 2004 at 2:04 pm

I was on a theatre conclave in NYC in 2002. I felt that Loews Kings even in its current condition was the most magnificient treasure on our tour. It took my breath away to see such a beautiful theatre. All the great Times Square movie palaces are now gone and I hope both the Paramount and the Kings can be saved. My hope is the City of New York would spend enough money to keep the theatre stablized until there are the funds to restore Loews Kings one of the Loews Wonder Theatres. Manhattan due to broadway has restored many of it legit houses but I have yet to see the city Restore one of there movie palaces the way other cities have. Radio City Music Hall was restored by a private company and is a unique venue.brucec

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 9, 2004 at 11:58 am

San Francisco is a small town in comparison to New York City and its five boroughs. SF’s largest and most magnificent movie palace, the Fox (designed by Thomas Lamb) was demolished decades ago. The smaller Loew’s Warfield was eventually converted to rock concerts and I think still presents them. One or two other large theatres have been converted to “legit” plays. But SF never had that many theatres to start with, so they are more likely to be “saved” than in the NYC area, which probably had twenty times as many…Hasn’t there been talk of restoring the Brooklyn Paramount when LIU moves to new premises? That would probably make more sense than reviving the Kings because the Paramount is in downtown Brooklyn and easier to reach by public transportation from all over the borough as well as from Manhattan and Queens.

Mike326 on February 9, 2004 at 11:24 am

I believe that it can. It would be a mega-project to say the least, but I just hate that such a beautiful and grand theater with potential, just sits dormant for so long.
I dont know if youre familiar with San Francisco, but alot of the theaters there have been restored, I wish they would do the same here. Do you know the Bay ara of SF ?

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 9, 2004 at 10:26 am

Rubi, I hope that you’re right. But it will require someone with great vision and showmanship to make it work.

Mike326 on February 8, 2004 at 9:28 pm

Dear Warren, having lived in Flatbush for over 40 years, I would like to correct you that in fact it has become a thriving bustling neighborhood with many new stores and business, catering to the large West Indian community which predominates. The demise of that neighborhood was a fast and disturbing one which occured right after the 1977 blackout, which wiped out many theaters, and many business'.
About ten or so years ago, the neighborhood began a gradual turn around, and many new business' began to open , including many National chain stores. Now, it is once again very busy.
The Kings would be IDEAL an entertainment center catering to the community, and, for that matter, everyone else, especially with the huge parking lot of Sears just behind it.
But, like you mentioned, it’s a matter of money and investors. I guess we can only be hopefull!
Best Regards
Best Regards

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 8, 2004 at 10:10 am

In the summer of 2002, a group of us from Theatre Historical Society of America was granted a visit of the interior of the Kings. It was in shocking and fragile condition, but still safe enough for us to walk around the orchestra floor and mezzanine without wearing safety gear. Despite water damage from a leaky roof (by then repaired), the theatre certainly seemed salvageable, though it would probably cost $35-50 million to restore it to anything like its original appearance. That seems highly unlikely unless someone can figure out a way to program the theatre. That area of Flatbush, Brooklyn, has been in decline for several decades now, and few people will go there at night unless they live there.

rondanto on February 8, 2004 at 12:29 am

The Loews Kings on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn was THE showplace of
Flatbush. It was like Broadway in Brooklyn. I saw many wonderful films ,mainly from the MGM library there, “Quo Vadis”, “Ben Hur"
and "King of Kings” 1961 just to name a few. I miss it so much.

Greenpoint on January 31, 2004 at 9:45 pm

In 1995 a scene from Sleepers was filmed there, that was where Rizzo’s brother was headquartered.They filmed the exterior and interior during this portion of filming.

ERD on January 31, 2004 at 12:45 pm

In 1974, The Kings theatre reopened for a special show. The main feature was BLAZING SADDLES. Towards the end of the film,
the projector caught on fire… The Morton “Wonder Organ” was workable through the 1960’s. It was removed from the theatre shortly before or after the theatre closed… Graduation ceremonies for New Utrecht High School was held at this theatre in 1960.

Mike326 on January 12, 2004 at 11:53 am

A new roof was put on the Kings about ten or so years ago, to prevent extreme damage to the interior, and it has proven to be effective more the most part.
However, there is serious leak in the auditorium, down near stage left, which has caused considerable damage to that section.
The Kings is still able to be restored, and from what I understand, it is not a lost case.

VincentParisi on January 12, 2004 at 9:22 am

I had heard that the interior is beyond being saved due to neglect and exposure to the elements(rain leaking in, etc.) Does anybody know if this is true or not?

Mike326 on January 12, 2004 at 12:17 am

From what I have heard, the multiplex plan has fallen through, and the Kings is still in the hands of the city.
The Kings is, in my opinion, the most beautiful theater in Brooklyn, and one of the most beautiful movie palaces anywhere.
Having grown up in Flatbush, it was also such a thrill to see the marquee all lit up at night, and the huge verticle neon LOEW’S sign, spelling out the name.
The one thing I remember in the massive auditorium, were giant baroque murals, and sinister satyr figures surrounding the exits down on either side of the stage.
I have many memories of going to see many movies there, including
“What’s Up Doc”?, “2001: Space Odyssey”, “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, and the lastly, “Marathon Man” in the winter of 1977, the same year it closed.
The Kings is a true treasure, and its depressing to see it dark and abandoned for so many years, but at least it still stands, and the interior remains.

Carl on November 6, 2003 at 11:33 am

I went to the Kings theatre in the 70’s, while visiting an aunt in the area. I the manager was a very kind woman who showed me all over the building when she saw my interest in it. I remember the huge entrance lobby, and the inner lobby with its bronze statues and walnut panelling. The upstairs ladies lounge, and the newel posts on the staircases to the balcony were art deco in style, everything else was a gorgeous french baroque. I hope someone renovates this theatre and reopens it without destroying its integrity. It would be a real loss to Brooklyn if this one gets away.

Theatrefan on November 2, 2003 at 12:47 pm

The Kings Theatre opened on September 7, 1929 on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. Designed by Rapp and Rapp, the lavish auditorium seated 3,600 and featured a mammoth dome high above the audience. Extensive use of walnut paneling and carved walnut columns along with deep, rich colors and heavily gilded ornamentation created an opulent scene for theatre patrons.

philipgoldberg on April 10, 2003 at 5:36 pm

Scaffolding currently covers the theater’s facade, so i wonder if something is going on here.

MarkW on November 6, 2002 at 1:27 am

The 5 Loews Wonder Theaters were: 175th Street, Paradise, Jersey, Valencia and Kings. While great theaters, The Pitkin and the 72nd Street were not part of the “Wonder Theater” group.

philipgoldberg on October 24, 2002 at 10:32 am

The Kings was one of the five Loews Wonder Theaters (175th Street, Valencia, Pitkin, and 72nd Street were the other four). It had a small shelf balcony and a grand lobby with a curving staircase. At one time there was even a basketball court in the basement for the staff. A scene from “Sophie’s Choice” was filmed in the theater but unfortunately wound up on the cutting room floor.