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 1,480 comments)

MarkDHite on September 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm

I suppose an actual note-by-note digital replication of a Wonder Morton played from the original console is a decent compromise, given the situation. But I wish people would stop saying it will be indistinguishable from the real thing. That’s just not possible. I wonder what the source instrument will be for the digital version, the Loew’s Jersey’s instrument? Are any of the others currently in playable condition?

theatrefan on September 20, 2015 at 7:04 am

Isn’t the Jersey’s original Wonder Morton now at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara California?

DavidZornig on October 6, 2015 at 4:56 pm

October 1969 photo added courtesy of Stephen Sclafani‎.

theatrefan on October 7, 2015 at 8:43 am

In the 1969 photo, does anybody know what the bundles were that were in front of the box office could have been?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 7, 2015 at 8:58 am

“Paint Your Wagon” is on the marquee. That’s a lot of empty seats gone unsold…!

DavidZornig on October 7, 2015 at 9:05 am

theatrefan, my guess is that they are promotional materials that arrived without anyone to open up and sign for them. In advance of the preview.

theatrefan on October 7, 2015 at 9:33 am

David, yes that’s what it looked like to me as well, thank you for posting the photo.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 7, 2015 at 9:53 am

That run of “PAINT YOUR WAGON” would have been in July, 1970 when it went to popular prices.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 7, 2015 at 11:00 am

What did that other line on the marquee mean — “New film each night.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on October 7, 2015 at 12:29 pm

According to a NY Times July 17, 1970 ad, they ran a different sneak preview of another film each night at all theatres playing “PAINT YOUR WAGON” for the third weekend, apparently to help jolt attendance. In this case it appears they ran “NORWOOD”(Friday),“KELLY’S HEROES” (Saturday) and “THE MOLLY MAGUIRES” (Sunday).

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