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 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 1,553 comments)

Orlando on September 13, 2017 at 7:56 am

In correction, Mrs. Dorothy Panzica gave the Kings Theatre 12 furnishings most of which are in the upstairs lounge to the right of the bar. The two high back wooden carved chairs are in the grand lobby to the left of the grand staircase.

Orlando on September 22, 2017 at 6:43 am

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” -1920 to be shown with live orchestra accompaniment on Friday, October 31, 2017 at 8 P.M. Tell them Orlando sent you.

Orlando on October 23, 2017 at 8:33 am

Happy (belated) Birthday on Sept. 6 2017. 88 years young.

Orlando on November 3, 2017 at 8:25 am

John Gibson Whitely who had a bad experience at the Kings Theatre on April 9 has submitted one comment to cinema treasures on that date. He is obviously a phony, using a pyseudinum. Just click on his comment. I believe a jealous THS member associated to Loew’s Jersey posted this comment. The initials are S.T. He was in the audience that evening. I defended the staff and disclaim this frauds comment. I have resigned the Kings Theatre which I was involved in long before ACE was in the picture. While I enjoyed my two plus years there, I cannot condone the upper managements running of the theatre which I am still truly fond of. Byn the way, there was a building situation which cost $2,5000,000 to repair neglected by management which could have led to lose of life. I am glad that I put the lives of patrons and the staff above the pettiness of management. Now, after six months, management has banned me from the theatre even with a ticket. My efforts to save my Kings Theatre means much more that the management that runsit. Esta la vista!

markp on November 3, 2017 at 11:00 am

Orlando, sorry to hear this. I like you, have memories of some old theatres here in NJ. I am now the house projectionist at the Union County Arts Center, and I try to get more classic films in there. I am also trying to get equipment installed and running at the Brook Arts Center in Bound Brook. Lots of hurdles. Money. Management. But I will not give up. I, like you, have it in our blood.

Orlando on November 4, 2017 at 8:09 am

Yes,it is my blood and thank you for your words. There are those who will stomp on you and try to wipe you out for credit. I don’t answer to them. I am true to myself and say what is the truth. I answer to my wisdon and knowledge. A theatre that has been in my life for over fifty years and I fought for with a “Breakfast with the Arts” episode in 2005 surely outweighs any management that operates and manages it. I was born way before them. They will never no the experince of seeing movies at the Loew’s Kings that I did. That experience comes once in a lifetime and what they have know is ten liquor bars in the space, that’s all they care about. The shows are for out-of-Brooklyners, who love the shows and the theatre. Otherwise the Kings Theatre does not serve the Brooklyn population and they (the locals) know it.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on November 16, 2017 at 6:54 pm

I don’t know, “THE HIP HOP NUTCRACKER” sounds pretty Brooklyn to me.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 22, 2018 at 9:56 am

A brief video tour of the rejuvenated Kings Theatre can be viewed here

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on February 14, 2018 at 6:55 am

Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his annual “State of the City” speech at the Kings Theatre last night. Complete video coverage with many views of the auditorium can be seen here

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on March 3, 2018 at 7:27 am

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

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