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The Brooklyn Theatre Index does provide some documentation for this theater. Specifically, it indicates operating years of – from March 11, 1916 to 1929. Thus, this was one of those many silent movie houses that did not convert to sound.The Index also notes that an architect named James A. Boyle performed alterations to this building in 1916 – the year of the Park view’s opening. This at least suggests that the building pre-dated its cinematic career and initially was constructed for a different use.
In reviewing my last message, I noted a mistake. Specifically, I wished to reference the RIDGEWOOD – not the Bushwick – as a theater whose facade did not architectually match the Bushwick’s. Sorry.
While it is appropriate – at least for those who enjoyed viewing movies here – to mourn the passing of this theater, it is worth pointing out that the opening of Kings Plaza in 1970 had the unforseen consequence of really gutting the once vibrant Flatbush/Church Avenues shopping district. The greatest cinematic victim of this development was, of course, the Loews King.
So the random fates of life go forward: The Kings Plaza Theaters are now history while the Loews King is undergoing a well deserved restoration.
Ed, you caught the current location of this old theater just about right. Thanks.
Unfortunately, when I returned from my vacation, I found a response to my “landmark the RKO Bushwick” request in my mailbox. Specifically, the Landmarks Commission noted that, since the building is “too significantly altered to meet the criteria for designation” it will not be recommended for designation.
Given the Commission’s interest in designating other – and frankly less imposing – facades such as the Bushwick and the Shore, I was more than a bit perplexed by this decision.
If anyone wishes to take up the torch on this issue, I would certainly welcome your interest.
I am now visiting Amsterdam and just passed by the Tuschinski. The facade is now being thoroughly – and hopefully lovingly – restored. The downside is that, except for the two towers, the facade is invisible to the eye. It should, however, be something to see when the work is done.
Fortunately, the lobby is open to the public and is an absolute delight to behold. The shifting colors on the ceiling create a terrific and absolutely exotic effect.
This is, in short, an incredible cinema treasure – and its best days may still be to come!
Actually, TT, Greenpoint was named after the green shoreline that the initial Dutch explorers encountered near the south bank of the intersection of the East River and Newtown Creek. There was nothing “Irish” about it.
By the early 1950’s, Greenpoint had hosted a large Irish population for nearly a century. So, the vaudeville act you referenced must have had a wide following.
Wow, TT, this may very well have been the last time that real vaudeville acts appeared at the Greenpoint. By the time I came of cinematic age in the mid-to-late 50’s, vaudeville at the RKO Greenpoint was clearly a thing of the past.
The attached link indicates that a mixed residential and commercial development will be constructed on the site of the old Republic. Apparently, the “current” gas station use has been vacant for some time.
While, as the article clearly states, the proposal is not uncontroversial – since it will provide “affordable luxury” instead of “affordable, affordable” housing in a poor but rapidly gentrifying neighborhood – it certainly represents a significant upgrade from the site’s most recent gas station use.
Hope the link works.
I was the person who just added the Italian Theatre, but I only did so after being reasonably sure that it possessed – unlike the Gayety – some cinematic history. A cinematic link need not be strong – in the case of the Lyric, it may only have occurred during its first two years of existence – but their must be something. Otherwise, many theaters that never presented a single movie could find their way to the cinema movie list. I think the site moderators are quite justified in insisting on this policy.
This issue has received some attention on other pages – see, e.g., Cinema Warsaw – and, unlike other commentators, I have taken a pretty generous position for inclusion – as long as SOME sort of cinematic history could be documented or strongly inferred.
This theater helps document the existence of a once fairly extensive community that has pretty much disappeard. Unlike those mostly Neopolitan Italians who moved into northern Williamsburg and Greenpoint, the Italian residents of southeast Williamsburg – as well as Bushwick – mainly hailed from Sicily. Due to post WW11 urban decline and the massive impact of major urban renewal projects, this community had dwindled to very small numbers by the time I first became acquainted with it as a student at nearby Most Holy Trinity HS in the mid 1960’s.
After this theater closed, the local patrons would probably direct their cinematic attention to the Echo Theatre, which would open a few blocks to the south in 1921.
My guess is that, in addition to showing films here, this theater also hosted Italian oriented concerts and theater and served as a center for a new immigrant community. But this is only a guess that will, hopefully, be either confirmed or contradicted by further documentation. It would also be interesting to know the sort of movies that were presented – silent, of course, but with Italian titles?
Hope this helps start a dialogue.
Well, no sooner had I noted the lack of a cinematic link to the Italian Theatre than no one other than the Brooklyn Theatre Index’s author politely pointed out one to me. Thanks Cezar, and I will be adding this site soon.
Before submitting this page, I was especially careful to note that the Lyric had actually served as a movie palace for some time – in this case for at least two years. This is an important consideration since the Brooklyn Theatre Index does not draw a distinction between theaters that had motion picture histories from those that did not.
This consideration places the Lyric in contrast to two Williamsburg based theaters noted in the Index that did not apparently possess a cinematic history. The first – the Gayety, situated at 18-22 Throop Avenue – had a long and distinguished history as a legitimate theater venue. However, nothing cinematic has been documented here.
In addition, the Italian Theatre, once situated at 260 Bushwick Avenue between 1911-17, may -or may not – have been a movie palace. It could just have easily have been an ethnic theater – such as the current day hispanic Thalia Theater in Sunnyside Queens – that presented drama in Italian and possibly some opera, but nothing cinematic.
Until come evidence appears that movies were actually played at these theaters, the Gayety and the Italian should not have pages in Cinema Treasues. But if anything cinematic turns up, they should certainly join the crowd.
I hope anyone who knows anything about the Lyric, Gayety and Italian theaters can enlighten about their interesting histories now.
Peter, I actually put the ball in motion and, earlier today, submitted a “Request for Evaluation” for the landmarking of the old Bushwick’s facade to the Landmarks Commission. This will probably trigger an investigation of this site for its “landmarks-worthiness”.
My request did specifically reference this page. However, any of you may wish to reinforce my proposal by also writing to the Commission in support. You should send your correspondence to:
Ms. Mary Beth Betts
Director of Research
Landmarks Preservation Commission
1 Centre Street, 9th Floor
New York, NY 10007
This will probably be the start of a VERY long process; but at least it will be a start!
When I hear anything from the Commission on this, I will certainly let you know.
Peter, great to hear from you.
Although it should definitely be a landmark, since it wonderfully reflects the best of theaters created a century ago, the old RKO Bushwick has never been so designated. Since the Landmarks Commission has exhibited a recent interest in noting such gems, this is clearly the time to move on this issue.
So, let’s do it.
Given the fact that its exterior remains not only generally intact but beautifully restored, serious thought should be given to its being declared a landmark by the NYC Landmarks Commission. Since, as demonstrated by the recent landmarking of the Ridgewood, Canal and Shore Theatres' facades, the Commission is clearly interested in this topic – and since, if anything, the Bushwick’s facade compares favorably to that of the recent designees – this appears to be a very “doable” venture. Finally, as the Bushwick’s interior has been thoroughly gutted, exterior designation should be a rather uncomplicated affair that will provide no apparent reason for anyone – especially the owner – to oppose it. In other words, this can be a real “win-win” situation.
So, what do you think about this modest proposal?
TT, that must have been a fun night. By the way, do you know who the “real Dracula” was? Was it a known actor or just an impersonator?
The linked photo appearing at the end of this comment, which will hopefully work, was taken by a Columbia University graduate student who is currently involved in a terrific project that will assess landmarking possibilities in the Bushwick Avenue corridor. It provides a directly shot view of the old theater.
By the way, the Brooklyn Theatre Index lists the years of operation for the Lyric to only run from 1914 to 1921. If this is trus, then AldoCP obviously saw the silent “King of Kings” at another theater in the 1940’s. Or perhaps the Index has it wrong.
One of the four pictures provided on the attached page from the NY Public Library shows a rare view of the old Parthenon in its very early years. The other three pictures show how things were at this intersection in the late 1920’s.
These pistures were taken by Eugene Armbruster and are in the public domain. The caption clearly indicates that the Parthenon did, in fact, move from Brooklyn yo Queens when the border changed in 1925.
Upon refreshing my memory of my visit to this site, I think that only a portion of the current ediface served as the movie house.
If you walk along the Leonard St. side of the building, the place is constructed, for about the first two-thirds of its length, of bricks that reflect buildings built about a century – or more – ago. However, the last one-third or so is constructed of cinder blocks, and was probably built somewhat later. Thus, the theater was probably contained in the older section, with additions implemented to accommodate later uses.
Given the theater’s tiny 258 seat capacity, however, this does not pose any significant problem regarding the identification of this site as an old movie house.
I agree with Astyanax that many theaters changed their weekly runs on Wednesday. (On any Tuesday night, you could see the theater attendant changing the facade sign to announce the new production.) But this most usually occurred at the community’s main movie theaters – such as the Meserole and RKO Greenpoint in Greenpoint and the Loews Gates and RKO Bushwick in Bushwick. The smaller “nabe” theaters, like the Grand and the nearby Graham, maintained their own schedules, which could feature triple bills that only ran for a few days. This obviously encouraged their patrons to visit the theater – and benefit from the lower price – more frequently.
Obviously, the Capri lasted for only one YEAR or so – not “one your”, whatever that is!
Bway, while CT’s rule of crediting the theater’s most recent name on title makes eminent sense and works in most cases, there are situations where exceptions should definitely be made.
An extreme example concerns the Graham Theatre, in Williamsburg, where after having served the community for decades under that name was turned into a porn house and “rechristened” The Capri. It only lasted a your or so in that capacity before closing for good. In the Graham page, I argued that it would make absolutely no sense to use the name of a theater that not only lasted for a brief time but did not, in any way, reflect the tastes and memories of thse thousands of people who patronized the Graham over its long lifetime.
That was an easy one. The Irving/Mozart provides a much closer question, since the name change did not, in all probability, reflect any change in programming. Still, I agree with you that the Mozart’s relatively brief lifespan works against its use. I am sure that practically everyone who patronized this theater remembered it as The Irving and only viewed The Mozart, if at all, as a footnote.
So, let’s keep the Irving’s name at the top while also hearing other views on this subject.
Thanks, site manager, for the quick response.
Although the Brooklyn Theatre Index only specifies that the Airdrome was situated at the Bushwick-Hancock intersection, the northeast corner was indicated as the site for the proposed theater. When I visited the site, it became clear that only that corner could have possessed the space to accommodate a 1,500 outdoor theater. This is why I felt comfortable in assigning the specific street address in the introduction.
Speaking of the proposed “grand” theater, while no reason was provided for the failure of this venture – and it could simply have been the inability to raise the required funds – some speculation can be offered. In 1914, Bushwick Avenue was a truly grand boulevard, the place where the community’s churches and fancy residences were situated. The local theaters, on the other hand, were relegated to nearby Broadway, which was one of Brooklyn’s leading commercial strips. Given this, the construction of such a purely – and permanent – commercial entity on this very smart street might not have gone over well with the local community leadership. While they could tolerate a seasonal venture like the outdoor airdrome, a year-round operation like this theater was something else again. (The theater owners on Broadway would also not have appreciated the additional competition.) This could have made this proposal a rather controversial item.
Anyhow, minus any firm documentation, this scenario is only speculative. But it provides some food for thought and will hopefully encourage some of us to explore the old newspapers and other sources to see if there is – or is not – any truth to it. Good digging!