Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings Theatre

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 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 1,516 comments)

walterk on August 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Mike (saps), I stand corrected. I had looked at the Kings website as recently as June to see if there were tours (I was visiting the area most of July) and didn’t find any information then, so I thought when a Facebook announcement on Monday said they were “kicking off our monthly tours today”, it was something new.

What I was looking for when I found the tour info was the pricing for the Star Wars Trilogy, which was a topic here. As tickets were no longer being sold, all I could find was an article that mentioned tickets started at $55, which would be for a balcony seat and the price that was mentioned in a comment above. One person commented to the article that with ticketmaster charges, two advance tickets came to $131.

I’m hoping my next visit to NYC this December coincides with at least one of the tour dates that month, that would be a holiday treat!

markp on August 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm

walterk, I am trying to co-ordinate with my wife to take one of these tours in the coming months. We shall see.

Orlando on August 18, 2016 at 10:17 am

The screen for Star Wars was 30' wide and 17' tall. As a kid I remember it as 36' wide and 20' tall. Yet, it looked great.

Orlando on August 18, 2016 at 10:24 am

The tours are not worth the price and travel. New management have no idea of the neighborhood or the “history of the Loew’s Kings”. They only discuss the renovation of the KIngs Theatre. The tours are also very short. Instead of the tour, come and see a show and view the theatre at the same time. It’s the best way. Beleive me, I know!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on August 18, 2016 at 10:40 am

I saw a show there soon after it opened and one difference between seeing the photos here and actually being there is that it is not as well lit in person. The house lights and lobby lights are down (at half?) as the patrons enter the building and the auditorium, as they should be. But this means that all the restoration work is not as eye-popping because the house is not lit for photo-taking but is lit for actual use, which means the show is the star and not the theater.

Of course it is still magnificent but in an elegant, more subdued way.

Do they have the houselights on full for the tours?

Orlando on September 6, 2016 at 10:29 am

The house lights are now fully lit and are on a dimmer. This happened during the first 6 months and was corrected. Remember all the lobby tubular light fixtures were not replaced also decreasing the beauty of the entrance lobby. However, some great news, the Robert Morton Organ console is now (as of 9/1/2017) on display in the rear promenade, fully restored inioory and gold trimmings. I have photos, but as an employee, I am prohibited from posting them here. IT IS SPECTACULAR to see it up close. So, come on down and see a show, look or ask for me, and as a paying guest, I’ll give you a short history. PLEASE change seating count to 3,398. Thank You and I’ll see you at Kings Theatre. TODAY the Loew’s Kings Theatre turns 87 years old. Happy Birthday to my baby!

Orlando on September 6, 2016 at 10:33 am

The organ is in ivory with gold trimmings,sorry for the typo.

MarkDHite on September 6, 2016 at 11:07 am

Of course that is how it would have been intended to be lit originally. An array of colors, with no white bulbs, amber being the brightest, displayed from recessed coves giving a luminous, atmospheric, and slightly mysterious glow to the auditorium. Dazzling and brilliant probably wasn’t what the original designers had in mind.

moviebuff82 on September 6, 2016 at 11:38 am

Had Loews kept the theater open through its corporate history it would’ve gotten multiplexed in the 1980s and in the 90s with Sony owning the theater have SDDS in the screens as well as plush seats along with recliners by AMC. At least the Kings has become a popular venue for performing arts.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 6, 2016 at 3:08 pm

More than one party looked into multiplexing this place but given its dimensions it proved impractical.

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