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 1,562 comments)

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on March 3, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Benjamin Mellniker, who joined Loew’s as an usher at the Kings Theatre and eventually became its chief legal counsel, has died at age 104. More details here

richardgreen
richardgreen on April 30, 2018 at 7:21 pm

Just passed by the Kings Theatre and noticed the B letter Inspection grade in the window, so I decided to look them up on the Dept of Health website. Here is what is going on with the food preparation:

Sanitary Violations 1) Cold food item held above 41º F (smoked fish and reduced oxygen packaged foods above 38 ºF) except during necessary preparation. 2) Sanitized equipment or utensil, including in-use food dispensing utensil, improperly used or stored.

I would not advise anyone attending a show there to get any type of food or you might get really sick. A performing arts center of this caliber should really make sure that these types of issues do not occur.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on April 30, 2018 at 8:10 pm

Please note that in regard to richardgreen’s comment, this site is not tripadvisor, google reviews, yelp. etc. This site is more an appreciation of movie theaters, in terms of their architecture, history & experience. No doubt this theater is working to correct violations & make sure nobody gets sick, but as stated, this website’s purpose is not to serve as a focus of such comments.

Orlando
Orlando on May 2, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Howard, the next time you are at the Kings, have a wrap and tell us about the your experience. LA-TI-DAH. Prepared food is something I would want to know in advance so I can eat before going to the show ANYWHERE.

curmudgeon
curmudgeon on May 3, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Howard, with greatest respect I find your response to richardgreene’s comment hypocritical at best. Of course we are all of one opinion to glorify the movie palace, but many posts on Cinema Treasures share critical observations of shortcomings of our treasured theatres. EG TCL Egyptian Theatre, Pacific’s Cinerama Dome, have all had many negative comments posted on this site. The lack of masking/poor presentation/pricing etc. etc. is a common thread on this site. Why should the Brooklyn Kings be exempt from any negative communication? Yes, I’m thrilled that this beautiful theatre has been saved from the wrecking ball, however should I ever be fortunate enough to visit this location I would like to be assured that any food/beverages purchased has been strictly adhered to by local health authorities.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on May 3, 2018 at 9:08 pm

The Kings currently has employment opportunities for people with bartending experience or eagerness to learn. Listing here

BobbyS
BobbyS on May 4, 2018 at 5:27 am

WoW !! Have to speak English. Never read that before. Can you you really say that today? It’s about time.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on May 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

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 6:25 pm

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 8:11 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.

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