Loew's Oriental Theatre

1832 86th Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11214

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Ravenhall on March 31, 2005 at 5:46 am

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 on March 31, 2005 at 5:05 am

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 on March 31, 2005 at 4:45 am

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 on March 30, 2005 at 9:53 pm

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 on March 30, 2005 at 1:49 pm

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

racerx85 on March 30, 2005 at 1:48 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 on March 30, 2005 at 11:26 am

So do I Yankee Mike. So do I

YMike on March 30, 2005 at 8:22 am

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 on March 29, 2005 at 12:16 pm

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

Theaterat on March 29, 2005 at 11:26 am

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 on March 28, 2005 at 10:25 am

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 on March 28, 2005 at 9:12 am

Sounds interesting, please continue when you have time.

Theaterat on March 28, 2005 at 8:55 am

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 on March 27, 2005 at 1:26 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 on January 25, 2005 at 6:38 pm

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 on December 20, 2004 at 8:54 pm

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…

br91975 on December 15, 2004 at 10:08 am

I’d think the best person to gain permission to explore what remains of the Oriental would be someone who: a) can locate a store manager during a relative moment of downtime (perhaps, say, during the early morning hours of a Monday or Tuesday – I’d guess not too many people go shopping then) – and a sympathetic-seeming manager at that; and, b) can offer a genuine, sympathetic anecdote or two and an understanding that what’s being made is an unusual request. That approach has worked for me in similar situations and I suspect it would in this case, too.

fbarlam on December 15, 2004 at 7:48 am

I lived on Bay 19 from 1954 – 1972. Tommy, who are your grandparents and father? Email me at

racerx85 on December 14, 2004 at 7:46 pm

I would love to go in there and ask to look around upstairs. I doubt they would let me. Maybe we can get a bunch of us together and see if we can pull it off.

Does anyone remember the chandelier up stairs? I always wondered what they did with it after they made it a triplex.

racerx85 on December 9, 2004 at 8:39 pm

Wow. I thought I was the only one who cared. I grew up on Bay 19 between Cropsey and Shore in the 70’s and 80’s. My grandparents and father lived there since 1948. Hey Fred, maybe you knew them! This theatre was a palace to me. I saw Star Wars there 58 times! It tears my heart out every time I think about it.

A few years back I asked a Marshall’s guard what happened to the rest of the theatre since it’s only a one-floor store. He said it was all still up there. Do you guys know how many times I’ve thought of trying to gain access to that? I’d love to see what happend to the rest of it. I took my future wife to our first movie there 20 years ago. Back To The Future, but the way. I still have dreams about that place. I’m glad there are some people who still remember.

fbarlam on December 3, 2004 at 10:09 pm

We lived on Bay 19th Street between Cropsey and Shore Parkway. I remember walking home with my parents and my older brother on a cold wintery night after seeing a movie at the Oriental in the mid 1950s. I was about 7 years old and I was FREEZING. My mother opened up her persian lamb coat and wrapped both me and her in it as we continued on our trip home. I was toasty from then on! The Oriental was the “classy” theatre in the neighborhood as opposed to the less opulent Deluxe or Benson. As a kid the huge dimly lit upstairs lobby at the Oriental, with it’s large woooden chairs that looked like royal thrones, would scare me, but the air conditioning on hot summer nights was a welcomed relief.

nlttak on December 2, 2004 at 6:00 am

Hi: ERD had asked in Aug. if Loew’s Oriental ever had a pipe organ?? YES, it did!! It was a 3 manual 13 rank Robert Morton. I was at the Oriental in the late 80’s to remove the organ’s 15hp blower from the sub basement. The Oriental’s blower is now playing the recently installed organ in the Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights, MN. There wasn’t much left in the organ chambers but, the swell shades, marimba harp and some regulators. The theatre was still very much open and alive but, not well enough to survive. It’s a real shame that someone hasn’t bought and restored this wonderful theatre!! Cheers: TK…

MichaelAnthony on November 28, 2004 at 7:11 pm

I think its sac-religous, with everything that has happened with all the theatre’s in brooklyn. To me, they are like Roman Monuments…

Bway on October 5, 2004 at 5:54 pm

Here’s a current photo I took of the Oriental, taken from the elevated West End Subway Line on July 24, 2004:

Click here for photo

PeterKoch on September 13, 2004 at 1:36 pm

Sorry I missed you, Tampadad. I’m glad to read that the theater did such a brisk business on weekends back when you were there. The one and only film I ever saw at Loew’s Oriental was “Star Trek IV : The Voyage Home” the last Sunday in February 1987. It was a triplex at the time. Even divided into three cinemas, each cinema was huge, given the total size of the theater. The Moorish architecture of balconies, arches, vaulted ceilings, all covered with ceramic tiles, was beautiful. Seeing all of this, one of my friends thought it had been a mosque before it was a theater. I and my other friends had to explain to her the grandiose architecture and interior decor of some of NYC’s older theaters.

Did a gang war break out inside the theater during “Fort Apache The Bronx” ?