RKO Bushwick Theatre

1396 Broadway,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on March 1, 2014 at 11:40 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.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 30, 2012 at 10:14 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.

LugosiResearch
LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 8:24 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
johndereszewski on June 11, 2011 at 10:13 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.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on June 7, 2011 at 8:59 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.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on April 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Good point, Astyanax ! Thanks.

Astyanax
Astyanax on April 13, 2011 at 2:48 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
PeterKoch on April 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Thanks, John D and WilliamMcQuade !

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on April 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm

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

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 12, 2011 at 6:45 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.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on April 12, 2011 at 9:15 am

I agree, John D, let’s do it. I probably won’t be able to help much, though.

In terms of comic book superhero clichees :

THIS IS A JOB FOR NATIVE FOREST HILLER !!!!

(Here he comes to save the day !!!!!)

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 11, 2011 at 7:13 pm

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.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on April 11, 2011 at 9:21 am

John D., I like your modest proposal very much, as well as your allusion to the work of the same name by Jonathan Swift. I thought the exterior of the Bushwick had already been landmarked.

Tinseltoes, thanks for your reminder of the 62-year anniversary of “Chamber Of Horrors”, live on stage at the RKO Bushwick.

It’s ironic in retrospect, for two reasons :

1) the real life “chamber of horrors” that the RKO Bushwick deteriorated into after it was abandoned in 1970 or so, and

2) the filming of “The Believers” at the RKO Bushwick in 1987, which was about the cult of Santeria, and a human sacrifice on the stage of the RKO Bushwick.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 10, 2011 at 10:02 am

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?

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on April 9, 2011 at 9:21 am

I was in it many years ago when it was basically abandoned. It had virtually no lobby but the theater itself was quite nice.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

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?

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Sixty-two years ago last night (4/7), the RKO Bushwick presented on stage, for one performance only at 8:30pm, “Chamber of Horrors,” with Dracula in person. This was a free bonus to the new screen program that had opened that day of two WB releases, the Technicolor musical “One Sunday Afternoon,” starring Dennis Morgan, Dorothy Malone, and Janis Paige, and the B&W melodrama “Whiplash,” with Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, and Zachary Scott.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Thanks Bway for mentioning this.

Bway
Bway on July 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I never noticed the cherobs were missing on the west side of the building. They are still present on the Bway side. They are surely gone forever, as they were still there in old photos of the theater when it was in shambles in the 90’s. I did however look at a photo I took of the building in 2003 from the Gates platform, and they were already gone.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 7, 2010 at 9:38 am

Great article, John D. “Montrose Morris” was on the June 27 2010 Bushwick walking tour. I spoke to her about the Loews Gates, Monroe, Century / Shubert and RKO Bushwick Theatres at the end of the tour before heading off on my own to the B-52 bus to Ridgewood.

I first knew The Brownstoner as a magazine in fall 1977 when I was a student at Cooper Union, from one of my profs, Jean LeMee, who lived in a Brooklyn brownstone at the time.

I like the simile in the article of the RKO Bushwick as a ship. Very apt and clever !

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 7, 2010 at 9:09 am

Thanks, John D.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on July 6, 2010 at 9:08 pm

The attached article, which includes a number of comments, about the Bushwick was recently posted in the Brownstoner blog.

Hope you enjoy it – and hope the link works.

View link

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 6, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Apparently no one took pictures of the former Loews Gates and RKO Bushwick theatres at the end of the tour, but I did mention them.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on July 6, 2010 at 9:11 am

Thanks, Tinseltoes.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on July 5, 2010 at 8:40 am

Photos and a video of Forgotten New York’s recent walking tour of Bushwick can be found here, but I didn’t spot any theatre sites among them: http://forgotten-ny.com/tour41/tour41.page.html