Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings Theatre

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 1,564 comments)

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 4, 2018 at 5:30 am

Exactly when did you think that couldn’t be required in this country? You can also require the applicant to speak English AND Spanish.

LuisV
LuisV on May 4, 2018 at 10:25 am

There is NOTHING wrong with requiring someone to speak more than one language. It makes you MORE valuable, not less.

stevenj
stevenj on May 4, 2018 at 12:11 pm

“Required to lift and carry items 50 pounds or heavier, often up and down stairs”

Seems like this is the requirement that could disqualify many.

Orlando
Orlando on October 26, 2018 at 11:05 am

NEWS FLASH!!!!!!

THE KINGS THEATRE Management is about to take over their neighbor the Former FLATBUSH SAVINGS BANK when the bank ceases operations on December 19, 2018! The bank has been operated as an ASTORIA Savings Bank and more recently as FEDERAL SAVINGS BANK which took over Astoria in a merger. This tidbit hit my ears at 1:15 PM this afternoon. The bank is a landmark building but I don’t know if its' interior is (like the DIME SAVINGS BANK) in downtown. What will happen here is yet to be found out but let me take a guess, a BAR and eatery for folks who are already to line up for the evening show or after the show for drinks and light finger food. With their “B” grade at the theatre what grade would they recieve if it becomes that?

Anyway a BAR will not happen at the bank building because their is a bar on the corner of the next block called "BAR" and a fine restaurant called Delroy's just a few doors down on Duryea
                  

St. which serves fine food and has a bar too! The KINGS already has seven BAR stations in the theatre besides its outdoor smoking area for shows now serves liquor and foods outdoors prior and to 12 Midnight during show days.

 The neighborhood does not want any more BARS in this area and will fight all liquor licenses requests for this bank building! We won't be caught being prepared this time.
                   The greed for LIQOUR money must be stopped now before it starts to develope. And remember this is if it becomes a bar, but i can't see as anthing else.
                  

NEWS FLASH……….NEWS FLASH……….NEWS FLASH……………

Quijibo
Quijibo on December 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm

I went there last night. What a beautiful theater. So rich and grand. I spent half the afternoon just staring at the walls and ceiling. I don’t remember seeing it before the renovation. I took many pictures.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on July 29, 2019 at 9:59 am

The Daily News reported yesterday that Kings management has been experimenting with the presentation of “intimate” lounge acts in its vast lobby. On July 19th, comedian Ray Dejon performed before a sold-out crowd of 200 filling the space to capacity, according to the article displayed here

Orlando
Orlando on September 11, 2019 at 8:13 am

Tick…tock….tick…tock goes the clock.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 11, 2019 at 1:36 pm

I see the editor has been in here sweeping away some of the cruddier comments…

DaveM
DaveM on October 16, 2019 at 12:07 pm

The Kings (lobby and auditorium) is featured in the movie Joker. (The exteriors and bathroom were shot elsewhere.) It looks fantastic (as it does in real life — I was there with the THS tour this summer.)

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on October 16, 2019 at 1:08 pm

Great movie. Didn’t know they filmed it there. Now I can visit that place soon…

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