Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings 10/14

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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.

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 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 1,439 comments)

JamesD
JamesD on April 17, 2015 at 1:26 pm

“If you haven’t lived and experienced it first hand, then regrettably you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I’ve read some stupid statements on Cinema Treasures in the past, but that was by far the stupidest. I agree that Cinema Treasures can be inaccurate, but such is the case with a lot of user edited postings (such as wikipedia.) I guess everyone who attended movie palaces in their heyday should write everything down so that everyone else can know exactly what to talk about.

At the same time we should probably stop listening to historians about ancient Greece, the Civil War, etc because they were born long after it happened and obviously don’t know what they are talking about.

Orlando
Orlando on April 17, 2015 at 6:29 pm

JamesD: It is not the stupidest statement ever made on this site but an accurate one. I lived and experienced it during the last 50 years of my life. If you can say the same, good for you and maybe you can write an introduction fitting the Loew’s Kings and Kings Theatre as it is now known. Did you ever see a film at the theatre, better yet have you seen it after its' re-opening. Were you born in 1977 or a little before??? You don'’t have to answer the questions because I really don’t care about what you have to say. I watched over this building over the 37 years it was closed visiting every year, several times the years. I know the true story of the Kings while in operation and during its' closed years and the meetings to save it. As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for me, there would be no Kings Theatre today. And I am not stupid, Erasmus Hall High School gave us all in 1974 a great HS, if not a college education.

JamesD
JamesD on April 17, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I was 10 years old when the Kings closed, but I did see films at other movie palaces, including the Valencia and the RKO Keiths. I’ve been following the Kings possible return since the early 90s, and have visited the theater since it reopened.

I’ve never heard your name beyond this site before, so what exactly do you mean by “As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for me, there would be no Kings Theatre today.” ?

Orlando
Orlando on April 18, 2015 at 4:11 pm

JamesD,

My credentials speak for themselves and I certainly don’t have to prove anything to you. What I said is exactly T R U E!

Orlando
Orlando on April 18, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Mike, I assume you meant petty and not pretty. As for deleting comments, that won’t happen because the truth is the truth. Some newspapers get all the stories wrong and tell you what you want to hear. If you really believe Marty Markowitz saved the Kings, think again!

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 18, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Orlando, it’s true than an eyewitness is often the best source of first-hand accounts, but there are many ways to arrive at the truth.

If there are errors in the introduction, I suggest you inform the site through the proper channels (which I’m sure you have done) and leave out the personal attacks on parties unknown. Your comment of April 16 at 9:40am was probably written out of frustration but it really should be deleted. You are working your dream job and have accomplished a lot, so these petty spats just sully this website.

And JamesD, your response of April 17, 5:36am was a bit out of line as well.

Let’s all delete this section of the comments before the webmaster has to do it for us.

JamesD
JamesD on April 18, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Orlando,

They do? I’ve never heard of you before reading your posts on this page. If you did save the Kings, that should be celebrated, not hidden. I’m sure a lot of the people on this page would love to hear how that happened.

Mike – I stand by what I said earlier.

markp
markp on April 19, 2015 at 12:04 am

I for one dont care (well I really do) who was responsible for saving the Kings Theatre. The point is that it was saved, and is back in business. You should be glad you have a company running it who knows what theyre doing. We here in Jersey have the Loews Jersey which needs a ton of work, and the Ritz in Elizabeth whose owner spent millions restoring it, and now it sits there doing nothing. We can only hope someone takes them over and they return to their former glory.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on April 19, 2015 at 6:45 am

Dear All,

Thank you for your passion for the Kings Theatre.

As Mike noted above, about once a year we’re forced to delete off-subject comments and those that degenerate into personal attacks from one page on this site. I truly appreciate all of your passion but we want to make sure comment threads do not become hijacked by inter-user squabbles.

As the son of a proud Erasmus graduate and former Loew’s Kings moviegoer, I’ll add that I’m also completely thrilled that the Kings is back. If there are inaccuracies in our entry above, please email any corrections to our illustrious editor Ken Roe at .

Thanks for your understanding and hope to see you in Brooklyn someday soon!

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