Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings 10/14

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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.

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 removed in 1971. The theatre was never divided and remained virtually unchanged throughout its history. Loew’s Inc. relinquished the theatre on August 30, 1977 and basically locked the theatre and left it. The final film was George C. Scott in “Islands In the Stream”.

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 held featuring Brooklyn Ballet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, TriBeCaStan and the Casym Steel Orchestra. On February 3, 2015, a concert by Diana Ross officially reopened the Kings Theatre.

Contributed by Porter Faulkner, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,413 comments)

Orlando
Orlando on February 13, 2015 at 3:34 pm

The neon is on as of yesterday, but some of it is out.

Orlando
Orlando on February 13, 2015 at 3:40 pm

By the way, Barbra Streisand N E V E R worked at the Loew’s Kings, she worked at a little Chinese restaurant on Nostrand Avenue. Read one of her biographies and “That’s the Truth” (Lily Tomlin’s character Edith Ann)!

theatrefan
theatrefan on February 13, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Thanks Orlando! I hope they fix the neon. BTW she also worked as an usher at one of the Broadway houses, she always refers to that part of her life in her interviews about seeing shows on broadway.

BobbyS
BobbyS on February 14, 2015 at 5:56 am

Thanks for report on the neon. Did the original marquee have neon do you know? Chasing bulbs(not led)look so much better and so movie palace like.

curmudgeon
curmudgeon on February 14, 2015 at 2:25 pm

Hi Orlando. I’m also intrigued as to whether neon lighting was much used in the 1920’s era of the Kings. I agree with BobbyS, nothing equals the chaser bulbs to create an atmosphere of excitement and theatrical splendour. Here in Melbourne, Her Majesty’s Theatre is a true theatrical treat with the expanse of (energy efficient) chaser bulbs lighting up our theatrical district.

Orlando
Orlando on February 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

The original (first marquee)was a high hat style and had stationary lights under the canopy and the reader boards were back lit. The corners were tiffany-like curves also back lit. The vertical sign (NOT BLADE SIGN) was neon but not animated. The second marquee had larger reader boards which had lime green neon all around the chaser lights borders inside and out (2 strips of green that went on and off. The front of the marquee had two panels that spelled out “Loew’s Kings” in red Loew’s lit up first and then Kings and then did an on of sequence and repeated same. The vertical sign had L O E W ‘ S in red neon andd horizontal white tubing (neon). It was very animated and went like this, each letter would light up from top to bottom andd then the white horizontal tubing would follow, when it was all lit up, the “LOEW’S” name wouldd flash on and off three times, go off and then the white tubing would go off from top to bottom. The cycle repeated itself. The “Loew’s” name would also on occasin would grow fron the inner most part of the letters to the outer most. Each letter had an inner, middle and outer neon tube. I know it will be hard to envision this, but take my word on this, you could see this vertical sign from Maple Street where I lived on Flatbush Avenue almost 15 blocks away. The Albemarle and thhe Kenmore also had fabulous marquees and vertical signs. I wish we had the sophisticated cameras of today back then. What is imbedded in my memory will always be there forever!

P.S. Find the 1970 film “Cotton Comes To Harlem” in Pan and Scan and you will see Loew’s Victoria which had the same Loew’s Kings marquee. You will see it working in on of the night scenes. The new Kino Lorber widescreen version omits it however.

Remember Kings Theatre is a Performing Arts Center, so there is no need for any type of chasing lights. A new replica of the vertical sign will read K I N G S with Theatre below it when it is installed at a later date. Personally, I think I would like to see the terra cotta without any sign on it.

theatrefan
theatrefan on February 14, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Orlando! Thank your for the amazing description of the original neon! Did the Kings originally use milk glass letter to spell out the titles of the films that were playing? I see that the Jersey originally had a French Curve marquee similar to the Kings, but nowhere near as ornate. Both were replaced in 1949, that the Jersey still has. I wish someone saved the neon letter from the former Kings marquee, although the Loew’s name was off of it at the end.

BobbyS
BobbyS on February 14, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Thanks Orlando for the great answers. I thought neon came along in the 30’s. Now I know I was wrong. Years and years later LED is the fashion of the times.

Orlando
Orlando on February 18, 2015 at 4:45 pm

The original 1929 letters were opaque 3-D glass with black outlines. Uncovered during renovation above the box office wer the same letters with the black outlines painted gold, what a suprise! They wer up for some months and spelled out: Top Line WELCOME TO LOEW’S KINGS SHOWCASE THEATRE 2nd: LATE SHOWS ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHTS.

theatrefan
theatrefan on February 19, 2015 at 1:57 pm

There is a photo online of that sign underneath the marquee online just as Orlando describes. Also that original sign was covered up by another sign that simply said “Welcome To Loew’s Kings Showcase Theatre” I wonder where both those signs are today? I hope they were saved for prosperity.

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