Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Kings Theatre

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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 1,495 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on April 12, 2016 at 8:25 pm

For what it’s worth, the article says “All three of the films will be presented in their 1997 re-release format.”

Lou_Lumenick
Lou_Lumenick on April 12, 2016 at 10:02 pm

A spokesman says the STAR WARS trilogy will indeed be shown on DCP.

BobbyS
BobbyS on April 26, 2016 at 11:05 pm

Can the pipe organ installed soon to follow you think?

Orlando
Orlando on May 14, 2016 at 4:50 pm

The pipe organ will never be installed as the contractors have heating and air-conditioning ducts running up and down the chambers of the original pipes. The people who have offered it back to the theatre (ACE) were told by someone at ACE that they would display the organ console in the lobby, but the offering party declined. It was all (in working condition) or not at all. That’s a real shame, but then MOVIES are not part of the Kings current menu. The Star Wars Films are not going to be shown here or elsewhere.

Orlando
Orlando on May 14, 2016 at 4:59 pm

P.S. The exact seating of the Kings Theatre is 3,398 seats. 905 in the mezzanine and 2493 on the main floor. When LOEW’S reseated the orchestra in the 1950’s the extended leg room and the seating in the orchestre went down. Now however, at 3,398… the orchestra seat have been returned close to the same seating, the mezzanine lost some 50 seats or so. I counted all the seats in all the sections (16 of them) while I worked those various sections … so they are ACCURATE!. For the 3,676 in 1929 to the 3,398 in 2016, only 278 seats were lost.

JamesD
JamesD on May 14, 2016 at 6:10 pm

Yes, the pipes from the organ will never be installed, but ACE did purchase the console from NYTOS for $50,000 in late 2015. They said it was so they could create a digital version of the organ, but who knows if that will actually happen.

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on May 14, 2016 at 8:09 pm

“The Star Wars Films are not going to be shown here”

That’s too bad, it would have been worth crossing the two rivers for that show.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on May 14, 2016 at 9:31 pm

I think he meant that the Star Wars films aren’t being shown on film there or anywhere. The Star Wars Trilogy Tour is on DCP. Will still be awesome, the tour is going to a number of former movie Palaces including the Kings, the Boston Opera House/Keith’s Memorial, and the Oakland Paramount. Great to see those films on the big screen in the kind of theatres they were meant for!

PeterApruzzese
PeterApruzzese on June 30, 2016 at 11:39 pm

Contrary to the above post, the Star Wars Trilogy is coming to the Kings, tickets go on sale Friday, July 1 at 10am:

http://www.victory.drafthouse.com/j/ol/bHN0OjgwNjUzOjEzNzkwODI-

TICKETS

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on July 1, 2016 at 1:37 am

Too bad I can’t go. It’s the same day as Paul McCartney’s MetLife stadium concert. I hope they show more movies at the Kings in the near future. Pete, I hope YOU can go!

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