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 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 1,447 comments)

markp
markp on April 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm

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 18, 2015 at 10:45 pm

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!

stevenj
stevenj on April 22, 2015 at 11:15 am

The comment I just made refers to Orlando’s post of 3/23/15. It was in today’s NYTimes.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on May 2, 2015 at 7:14 pm

For an old theatre, or any historic place, to survive decades of neglect and to be revived in splendor, two basic things need to have happened. One, there need to have been selfless volunteers to spend hundreds and thousands of hours to keep the building alive for years and years when no one else cared. This first group is almost solely motivated by love for the place and the community. Two, there need to be powerful politicians, fundraisers and entrepreneurs to get the huge amounts of $$$$ and combine those with the right expertise to make a restoration happen. Naturally enough, the second group get all of the headlines and awards. But without the first group no restoration would or could ever have happened. They tend to be forgotten, but deserve the accolades just as much as the politicians for making it all happen.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on May 2, 2015 at 7:18 pm

And, for what it’s worth, Ann Dornan ( with an a ) was the name of the decorator who worked for Loew’s in the late 1920s.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on May 4, 2015 at 6:52 am

Mark – How sure are you about her name being spelled with an “a”? I’ve only seen Dornan used in captions, but I read an interview with her about her work with Loew’s Inc that spelled it Dornin.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on May 4, 2015 at 7:46 am

Thanks Matt. I’ve never seen it spelled any other way but you are absolutely correct. Anne Dornin. Her married name was Anne D. Scudamore. Her obit can be found in the NYT on Sept 18, 1960. That explains a lot. Thanks again.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on May 4, 2015 at 7:49 am

No, thank you for clearing that up.

MarkDHite
MarkDHite on May 5, 2015 at 8:16 am

Here’s a link to interesting interview with Dornin in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in 1931. There are nice photos of her face and in Loew’s Ohio in Columbus OH. Very interesting to learn that her professional association was not so much with Loew’s as with Thomas Lamb, gradually taking greater responsibility over the years for the decor and construction of the theaters he designed.

http://bklyn.newspapers.com/image/59888680/

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