Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings Theatre

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The Loew’s Kings Theatre opened its doors to Flatbush Avenue on September 7, 1929 with Dolores del Rio in “Evangeline” (part talkie), plus on stage ‘Frills and Fancies’ a revue, Wesley Eddy & his Kings of Syncopation, and the Chester Hales Girls. Dolores del Rio appeared ‘in-person’ at every one of the performances of her movie at the Loew’s Kings Theatre. It was the 2nd/3rd of the five ‘Wonder Theatres’ built by Loew’s Inc. in New York City, opening the same day as its sister theatre in the Bronx, the Loew’s Paradise Theatre. The Loew’s Kings Theatre was the 25th largest movie theatre built in the U.S.A.

Loew’s Inc. dominated the market in Brooklyn, and this was their flagship in the very grandest French Renaissance style designed by the prestigious architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp of Chicago and architect Edwin C.A. Bullock working out of the New York office of the compamy.

The theatre occupies a massive site built diagonally across an odd assortment of lots and had an original seating capacity of 3,676. The main façade is arched and is faced with richly decorated terra cotta. There is a vast entrance lobby that opens onto an even more spacious inner lobby and then on to a foyer at the rear of the orchestra level. An unusual feature of the auditorium is the majority of the seating is in the orchestra level. There is no balcony but instead a shallow mezzanine seating 878, that is entered by stairs off the inner lobby.

The mezzanine level lounges overlook the entrance lobby. The paneling in the lobby areas is real mahogany and throughout instead of crystal chandeliers there are massive stylized Art Deco style light fittings with elaborate etched glass and tassels.

The sumptuous interior decoration was the work of the Harold Rambusch Studios of New York under the supervision of Ann Dornin of Loew’s Inc. The mezzanine seating area is set way back in the very high auditorium creating a luxurious and spacious feel, even though it is crammed with detail and lavish velvet draperies. There are Corinthian columns and magnificent murals in alcoves on the side-walls depicting scenes from the Royal Court of the Bourbons. The proscenium opening is 60 feet wide and the stage has full facilities. The Robert Morton ‘wonder’ organ had 4Manuals/23Ranks. Loew’s Kings Theatre boasted it was the first movie theatre to be opened in America that was specifically designed for ‘talkies’. Originally presenting stage shows with the feature film, this programing disappeared in the Depression and the theatre remained film only for the rest of its life. The Loew’s Kings Theatre had a gymnasium and basketball court located in the basement, which were provided for the use of the theatre staff. In the 1950’s a young local girl Barbra Streisand worked in the Loew’s Kings Theatre as an usher.

The Loew’s Kings Theatre had a steady decline from the 1950’s onwards and managed to last into the mid-1970’s before it was forced to close due to poor attendances. The Robert Morton ‘wonder’ organ was last played in January 1974 by organist Lee Erwin, and it was removed from the building, donated by Loew’s to New York University. The theatre was never divided and remained virtually unchanged throughout its history. Loew’s Inc. relinquished the theatre on April 25, 1977 and basically locked the theatre and left it. The final film was George C. Scott in “Islands In the Stream”. However it was sold to an independent operator and reopened in early-June 1977 as the Kings Theatre with Leslie Nielsen in “Day of the Animals”. The theatre was not paying its way, and it was closed just six weeks later on August 29, 1977 with “Bruce Lee:The Man, The Myth”.

Over the years this most stately monument just sat and deteriorated quietly on Flatbush Avenue. There were controversial plans to convert the building into community use, a shopping mall and even demolition. In March 1999 it was announced the building would undergo a $30M restoration to convert it into a 12-screen multiplex for Magic Johnson Theatres to open in 2001. This scheme was dropped in late-2000 due to financial difficulties. The marquee remained over the entrance but the huge vertical sign on the façade was removed in the late-1990’s for safety reasons. Taken over by the Flatbush Redevelopment Corporation, the building had waited over 30 years for a revitalization. Its interior was still majestic despite the ravages time, vandals and water damage.

In January 2010, plans were announced to renovate the Kings Theatre as a live performance theatre by the Houston based ACE Theatrical Group. The $94M renovation/restoration work began on January 23, 2013, and was completed on January 27, 2015 when a preview event was due to be held featuring Brooklyn Ballet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, TriBeCaStan and the Casym Steel Orchestra, unfortunately the was cancelled due to heavy snowfall. On February 3, 2015, a concert by Diana Ross officially reopened the Kings Theatre.

Contributed by Porter Faulkner, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,538 comments)

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 13, 2017 at 11:15 am

I got there at 7 and security was very fast, but hardly anyone was there yet. It was like airport security: open all bags, go through metal detector, people being wanded, etc. My friend mentioned that it was advertised in the NY Times the day before, and that may have contributed to the unexpected box office crush.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 13, 2017 at 11:17 am

One thing that made the long wait bearable was just being able to sit in the Kings and look around at the beautiful job they did with the theater.

stevenj
stevenj on April 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm

Why the intense security? Metal detectors, being wanded? Is this something new?

The comment made by orlando…"when the box office experiences problems with today’s ticket selling methods" sounded like the reason for the late start. I have personally experienced this (at a SF movie theater) when people by a ticket online and then have their cell phone barcode scanned and the ticket takers cell phone took inordinately long to do the task.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on April 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Well, you know, “Barry Lyndon” – attracts a rough crowd.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on April 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Good one, Mark! 😊

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 13, 2017 at 9:38 pm

Orlando, you have shown yourself over the years to be a true movie theater lover, historian, preservationist, and restorer, and that’s only scratching the surface. And you’ve been a valuable asset to this site.

So please delete your intemperate response to a paying patron’s experience, rethink your answer, and post again in the cool light of day.

richardgreen
richardgreen on April 17, 2017 at 10:58 am

I was also at the Barry Lydon event and can tell you that the staff of the Kings displayed nothing but the utmost respect and professionalism to me, there was a problem with the ticketing system that was in no way their fault.

That being said I did now notice this time that there is netting which is installed over the main dome in the auditorium, when I asked one of the ushers what that was all about, the reply was: “That’s to keep the loose plaster from falling on people’s heads” I guess the 95 million dollars they spent renovating this place could not insure that the ceiling would necessarily stay up and in place like it does in other venues.

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on April 17, 2017 at 11:07 am

It was closed for over 30 plus years with no maintenance. The fact that it looks this good is flat out amazing. Kudos to the company that did the renovation. Waiting to hear about the Paramounts reopening. Sadly the Fox is no longer with us.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 17, 2017 at 9:43 pm

It’s amazing (or not) what $93 million can do…

BobbyS
BobbyS on April 17, 2017 at 10:30 pm

I was at the Fox Farewell the last night. I will never forget it. What a beautiful theater!!!

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