RKO Bushwick Theatre

1396 Broadway,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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RKO Bushwick Theatre

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The Bushwick Theatre opened on September 11, 1911 and was operated by Percy Williams as a vaudeville theatre. It became part of the B.F. Keith’s chain in 1912, operating until 1930. It became a movie theatre for the RKO-Keiths chain in 1930 and operated until closing in 1969.

Church use followed, for a period of time, then the building fell into disuse and decay for decades.

A high school opened within the shell of the former theater in March of 2004.

Contributed by Kevin Backmann, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 464 comments)

johndereszewski on April 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

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.

WilliamMcQuade on April 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Get your elected polticians to take a stand now. Get them behind you. It will help a lot & speed up the process.

PeterKoch on April 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

Thanks, John D and WilliamMcQuade !

Astyanax on April 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Thanks John for spearheading this effort. It would mean a l;ot for a neighborhood that is in the process of rebuilding to have a landmark designation for this site.

PeterKoch on April 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Good point, Astyanax ! Thanks.

johndereszewski on June 7, 2011 at 6:59 pm

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.

johndereszewski on June 11, 2011 at 8:13 am

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.

LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

On Tuesday 13 February 1951, Bela “Dracula” Lugosi presented his in person Horror and Magic Stage show at RKO Bushwick. Currently I am conducting research on all things Lugosi; if anyone out there actually saw this show and/or has memorabilia (poster, handbill, photos) related to this show, please contact Bill at Thanks in advance for any assistance!

johndereszewski on December 30, 2012 at 8:14 am

Hello Lugos, while I cannot help you on this, since I was only one yeat old at the time, your comments raised a few questions that I hope you can address. First, given the fact that this was, at least in part, a “magic show”, was Lugosi actually some sort of a magician as well as an actor or was the “magic” aspect just part of the show? Also, were these 1951 performances made in conjunction with the release of one of his recent movies or were they free standing events – or did they accompany the showing of another movie in which Lugosi did not appear? I know that by 1951, live stage presentations at most movie houses were pretty much limited to celebrity appearances made to boost attendance for the celebrity’s most recently released film, which was being presented on the same date. Did the Lugosi appearances fall into this category or were they somewhat different?

And best of luck on your research.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on March 1, 2014 at 9:40 am

Wurlitzer’s records show that they shipped a 2-manual, 8 rank pipe organ, Style F, opus 1390 to the Bushwick Theatre in Brooklyn in the summer of 1926. This implies that the Bushwick had started showing movies by that date.

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