Loew's Oriental Theatre

1832 86th Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11214

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br91975
br91975 on April 1, 2005 at 8:21 pm

This posting by Philip Goldberg might answer some of the questions about what remains of the Loew’s Oriental…

I was in the building this weekend shopping with my wife. Although the orchestra level is completely gutted, I found an original theater staircase behind a closed door. it still has some of the original brasswork. Look at the drop ceiling and you’ll see a few missing panels, let your eyes adjust to the darkness above and you can barely make out the old ceiling of the theater. Also look at the plastered side wall. It’s also from the original theater lobby. It’s freshly painted but if you look up to where the ceiling panels are, and look above them through one of the missing panel’s holes, you see where the old dark paint from the theater begins. (To gain access to this stairway, just ask to use the bathroom, as it stands behind a locked door, and a store associate must open it for you.)
posted by philipgoldberg on Nov 5, 2002 at 2:10pm

racerx85
racerx85 on April 1, 2005 at 7:44 pm

I just re-read this entire conversation and a few things are apparent, I really should proof before posting, more than one of us have encountered the Eastern Bloc Of The Oriental, and we’d all love to know what’s left of the old girl. I’m glad to see the spirit still alive…

racerx85
racerx85 on April 1, 2005 at 12:46 am

I hope so. It still gets to me every time I see it. Every time I see anything related to old theatres I think of the Oriental. The gym I go to in Bay Ridge is an old theatre. The main room still makes use of the top of the screen frame, the Teaser? I still can’t believe that all those years the old dressing rooms and stage set up were still in tact. Why didn’t I think of getting a job there when I was a kid?

Theatrefan
Theatrefan on March 31, 2005 at 11:37 pm

That Russian lady is no help whatsoever, I believe they have a different manager working on the weekends, that may have a nicer attitude.

racerx85
racerx85 on March 31, 2005 at 11:15 pm

Theatre rat,
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. al I asked her wss if any of the old architecture was preserved. She looked at me as if I just gave her the flesh-eating bacteria. “No! All gone. All of it”! was her reply. In an almost spiteful tone I might add. I still want to try again and see if there’s anything left. I was just by there today and was thinking that there must be something up there. It’s like five stories of empty space. Hmmm…

Theaterat
Theaterat on March 31, 2005 at 8:04 pm

Tommy X,,,I had an encounter with that Russian woman. Rude to the extreme. And nasty. Bet the only party she ever went to was the Communist party!

Theatrefan
Theatrefan on March 31, 2005 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for the info RobertR, I hope too much damage wasn’t done when it was quaded in the mid 80’s right before it closed. I know there was a proposal for landmark status that did not get passed.

RobertR
RobertR on March 31, 2005 at 5:05 pm

The Walker is 100% intact behind all the false plaster board walls.

Theatrefan
Theatrefan on March 31, 2005 at 2:52 pm

One day in September of 1997 I was walking by the front of this theatre, and was horrified to see a construction crew gutting the entire main floor. There was a dumpster full of old theatre seats from the Loew’s Oriental right outside the front entrance, everything that existed on that level was clearly being torn out in the conversion to retail.

I did get to take one of those staircases once when I asked a guard if I could use the bathroom, the staircase was the same as I remember only painted a different color, the bathroom also seemed to be in the same place when it was a theatre. I tried to look around for any other signs of the former theatre, however I could not find any, only a bunch of rooms for the sales staff. Someone once mentioned to me that the Walker on 18th Avenue has its balcony mainly intact so one can only hope about the Oriental. I also wonder how much of the original marquee is left under the Marshall’s sign, they look like they are the same exact size & location.

I have a copy of a photo of the Loew’s Oriental, the movie playing at the time was “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” from 1974 according to the IMDB, the two stores on the right side of the theatre entrance were: Oriental Movers & Food “N” Stuff, I remember later in the early 90’s a bagel store right next door to the theatre.

All this talk of the Loew’s Oriental is really making me nostalgic. For me, as a child it was always such a treat going to a palace like this to see movies, I still remember the huge line for Star Wars back in the summer of 1977, twenty years later they were tearing the place apart!

Ravenhall
Ravenhall on March 31, 2005 at 2:46 pm

Tommy X
I worked at the Pharmacy from 1951 through 1955 or so, which is a little before your time there. I doubt that most of the folks that hung out there are still alive. I was in my early teens and they were all in their 20’s to 40’s.

YMike
YMike on March 31, 2005 at 2:05 pm

There was a large furniture store next to the Oriental that was also taken over by Marshals. The Oriental luncheonette was there until the theatre closed. I know when they started work converting the building I saw bulldozers in the orchestra section so the ground floor is probably gone. I would guess the balcony and cieling of the auditorium could still be intact. The Russian manager would not know (or care) about the status of the theatre.

racerx85
racerx85 on March 31, 2005 at 1:45 pm

Ravenhall,
I don’t remember Karelle Drugs. When was that? When I was active at the Oriental, in the late 70’s and 80’s, there was a candy store on the most immediate corner and a luncheonette on the left of the theatre. I think that became a furniture store of some sort later on.

Ravenhall
Ravenhall on March 31, 2005 at 6:53 am

I used to work at the Pharmacy on the corner of the Oriental. It was called “Karelle Drugs” and owned by Joe Friedman. I worked there all through my High School years and then some. These words brought back a slew of memories from those years. I moved away from NY and never found out what became of Joe and the store.

racerx85
racerx85 on March 30, 2005 at 10:49 pm

Ahem…please ignore the glaring spelling errors. I forgot to proof…

racerx85
racerx85 on March 30, 2005 at 10:48 pm

Theatrerat: I had to read your post several times because it painted such a vivid picture in my mind. Funny thing is, I just finished a book about staging plays(I’m an actor) and thought I really didn’t need to know things about the ropes and pulleys and belaying pins. Then I read your story and the irony slapped me silly. I whis I had known that me favorite place to spend the day was so full of rich detail and history.

Back in December, I went there and tried to speak with a manager of the store that occupies the space. I wanted to know if they preserved any of the theatre. She was very rude and her thick Russian accent didn’t help much either. What I got from her in a dismissive way was that everything was torn out during the conversion. I was so saddened by that since the department store is only one floor. I had hoped they had the presence of mind to preserve something more than the marble staircases. I’m even more saddened by the realization that every detail you described is also no longer there as well. There ought to be a law…

Theaterat
Theaterat on March 30, 2005 at 8:26 pm

So do I Yankee Mike. So do I

YMike
YMike on March 30, 2005 at 5:22 pm

Thanks, I always wondered if there was an orchestra pit elevator in that theatre. Wish you had taken some pictures. It was a great place to watch a movie.

br91975
br91975 on March 29, 2005 at 9:16 pm

Thanks for the recollections, Theaterat – they paint as vivid a picture as any snapshots would.

Theaterat
Theaterat on March 29, 2005 at 8:26 pm

I hope that I am not opening a can of worms. My friend (who shall remain nameless)gained access to the theater from the back stage area.Upon entering there was a corridor with the long abandoned dressing rooms on each side. The mirrors were still there but all the bulbs were missing. there were also bathrooms with showers in this area.Then came the back stage area itself. It seemed to be as high as the celing. Scaffolding held the lights. There was a wooden floor with hatches that led under the stage-I never went down there. This is where the riser mechanism fof the orchestra pit was. I understand it was not operating due to years of neglect. There was an elaborate system of ropes and blocks(pulleys) to raise and lower the top and side curtains as well as a winch. The ropes were attached to the pinrails and were made fast to the belaying pins . This area kind of resembled the deck of an 18th crntury pirate ship.There were also switchboards and othet controls for the lighting system.When I walked on stage, the walled off front section of the balcony that had been divided down the middle was clearly visable.In the orchestra section all the fire doors were locked from the inside. Somebody had removed the glass plates that had exit written on them. Even at this stage after the theater was closed for almost6 months it seemed to be in good order. There was no graffiti sprayed on the walls.At the rear of the orchestra near the doors to the lobby was the new projection room that was built when the theater went multiplex. The projectors were gone.We had to be careful in the lobby-we did not want anybody to see us. A large roll down gate was placed at the outside entrance on 86th st. I saw the managers office that was built under one of the stairways to the balcony. Nothing was there except a leather couch. This is where my friend slept. Ironically enough, the electricity was never turned off, but your eyes quickly adjusted to the half light in side. All the vending machines and video games were also gone. The beautiful mezzanine was also in good condition. The toilets un the bathrooms still worked as did the sinks. The balcony had hundreds or broken seats. I was also shown the upper projection gallery, also with the projectors removed. This was a long narrow area that seemed as wide as the theater. Nothing of value was in here. The basement was pretty much nondescript as were the heating and airconditioning areas. It was an eerie experience.but a thrilling one too. The few homeless people that were residing there set up big garbage bags for their litter. I guess they respected the old theater, their new home.My friend was a Trival Pursuit fan> .I wrent over a few times and we played it in the managers office.I should have taken my camera. Sorry I didnt.

racerx85
racerx85 on March 28, 2005 at 7:25 pm

Yes, Theatrerat, please continue with your recollections. They are bringing back many warm and fond memories. I remeber those stairs going to the upper balcony. When it was a duplex, us kids were never alloewd up there. I don’t remember why…

and I’d love to hear more about the tour.

Bway
Bway on March 28, 2005 at 6:12 pm

Sounds interesting, please continue when you have time.

Theaterat
Theaterat on March 28, 2005 at 5:55 pm

After writing the above blog, I would like to add some additional comments about the theater . After the theater closed in May 1995, official word was it was closed due to the lack of parking space in the area. That sounded like BS because parking was never an issue for almost 65 years.Also there is another fact that many of you do not know. In late 1995. there wetre a small number of homeless people living there. A friend of mine from my second job got put out by his wife. He managed to make his way in after sleeping in his car for over a week.When he told me this, I asked him if I can come inside and take the grand tour. He said y7es, but he told me not to tell anybody about it.Lack of time prohibits me from getting into it now, but maybe I will continue the story in the near future.

Theaterat
Theaterat on March 27, 2005 at 10:26 pm

The Oriental was the best theater in Bensonhurst.It was a picture palace,a cinema cathedral and a mosque to the movies. When you went to the Oriental you went to the movies. Not as big or ornate as the Kings, it still was a picture palace of the first order. Somewhat similiar inside to the 46th St,it did not have as much statuary work, but was just as beautiful.There was the marbl;e stairway to the mezzanine where the restrooms were located. At either end of the mezzanine were the two stairways to the upper and lower parts of the balcony. Expensive looking drapes hung there. The interior was in green stucco with brass trim. The doorways had pointed Moorish style arches. There was a seperate entrance from the lobby to the proscenium with heavy brass doors. There were 3 blocks of seats seperated by 4 aisles. There was a fence around the stage and a domed celing. The theater resembled a sultans palace and epic films seemed right at home on the big screen.It was, in fact taller than the 6 story apartment buildings that were behind it on Bay 19th St.

ERD
ERD on January 26, 2005 at 2:38 am

Thanks TK for your informative post. I hope someone knows if Loew’s 46th Street or Loew’s Boro Park had a theatre organ.

racerx85
racerx85 on December 21, 2004 at 4:54 am

In my moments of obsessive insanity I’m thinking I’m going to attempt to do what br91975 suggests. I’m just dying to know what is left of our old girl. Perhaps just after the holiday season when things calm down in the retail world a bit. Man, if I ever get to become a Hollywood actor I think I’m gonna buy her and and bring her back. Just a thought anyways…