Loew's Kings Theatre

1027 Flatbush Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11226

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Loew's Kings Theatre

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The Loew’s Kings Theatre opened its doors to Flatbush Avenue on September 7th, 1929 with Dolores del Rio in “Evangeline”, plus on stage ‘Frills and Fancies’ a revue, Wesley Eddy & his Kings of Syncopation, and the Chester Hales Girls. One of the five ‘Wonder Theatres’ built by Loew’s in New York City, and it opened the same day as its sister theatre in the Bronx, the Loew’s Paradise Theatre.

Loew’s dominated the market in Brooklyn, and this was their flagship in the very grandest French Renaissance style designed by the prestigious firm of Rapp and Rapp of Chicago.

The theatre occupied a massive site built diagonally across an odd assortment of lots and had a seating capacity of 3,676. It had the unusual feature of having the majority of the seating in the orchestra level. There was a vast entrance lobby that opened onto an even more spacious inner lobby and then on to a foyer at the rear of the orchestra. There was no balcony but instead a shallow mezzanine that was entered by stairs off the inner lobby.

The mezzanine level lounges overlooked the entrance lobby. The paneling in the lobby areas was real mahogany and throughout instead of crystal chandeliers there were 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. The mezzanine containing only 878 seats, was set way back in the very high auditorium creating a luxurious and spacious feel, even though it was crammed with detail and lavish drapery. The proscenium opening was 60 feet wide and the stage had full facilities and a Robert Morton ‘wonder’ organ which had 4Manuals/23Ranks. Originally presenting stage shows with the feature film, this disappeared in the depression and the theatre remained film only for the rest of its life. The Kings Theatre had a gym 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 Kings Theatre as an usher.

The Loew’s Kings Theatre had a steady decline from the 1950’s on-wards 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 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 has just sat and deteriorated quietly on Flatbush Avenue. The marquee still remains but the vertical was removed in the late-1990’s for safety reasons. Now owned by the Flatbush Redevelopment Corporation, the building waited over 30 years for a revitalization. Its interior is 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 is set to be completed by 2015.

Contributed by Porter Faulkner, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,508 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 7, 2014 at 7:01 am

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johndereszewski
johndereszewski on March 7, 2014 at 7:05 am

Luis and LM, thanks so much for this very encouraging article.

It appears that the new management of the Kings is taking a prudent and level headed approach as to how they will market the theater once it re-opens. Given the disappointing experience that befell the Bronx Paradise, this is a very important consideration that will hopefully work out for the better in Brooklyn.

Finally, although it is not mentioned in the article, I hope that the restored Kings will possess the facilities to present an ocasional movie ot two. It would really be great to experience viewing a classic film in this envoronment. Such special events would also probably draw capacity crowds.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 7, 2014 at 7:18 am

I also noticed the omission of films in the proposed line-up. I do hope they are installing projection equipment as well as theatrical lighting, sound, etc.

I’m also curious about the stadium seating. Will it rise as high as the first mezzanine, perhaps incorporating it? Can’t wait to find out…!

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on March 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

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Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm

They are putting in stadium seating? That’s really first-class. I hope the community rallies around the Kings and makes of good use of it. Not every city is lucky enough to have a facility of this caliber.

BobbyS
BobbyS on March 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm

You are so right Life’s Too Short. Stadium seating is really something. That would leave me to believe showing films might be in the future. The Uptown Theatre in Chicago which is trying to find funding to re-open is reported to have said their intenion is to remove all seats from the first floor and make it a dance club/theatre. The King’s sounds like the people in charge know what they are doing…I too hope the community is behind this beautiful place and will support it over the years…

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on March 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I think there are two keys to future success: 1) support of the government and 2) creative and intelligent management.

Obviously they have number 1 or the project never would have gotten done. Hopefully number 2 will materialize.

There are so many ways a building of this size and grandeur can be used. One example is for weddings. Several old theaters I am aware of seem to be benefiting from that. My hope is that they will hire a manager who understands and has the hustle to go out and form business relationships.

If they just sit there and wait for big bookings to roll in I’m not sure things will work out very well. Nationwide it seems like there is competition for business and I doubt New York City is an exception.

I’m also not sure they can expect it to be strictly profitable all the time. It may be. But if it isn’t every year and still adds to the community that really isn’t a bad thing. Tax dollars are supposed to be spent on projects that make taxpayer’s lives better.

Scott
Scott on March 19, 2014 at 1:08 pm

“Tax dollars are supposed to be spent on projects that make taxpayer’s lives better.”

Right. And that definition provides an umbrella under which politicians justify just about anything.

BobbyS
BobbyS on March 19, 2014 at 2:29 pm

The beautiful Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Il. does a very brisk business in weddings. I am there once a month on a Sunday and many times the marquee still spells out from the day before. Example: “A Love Story” starring the names of the couple who just wed. The theatre has many packages that include catering, flowers etc. all from local Joliet businesses. Some use the lobby alone, many use both lobby & stage & Barton organ. They do reach out and lobby the theater rental. You are right Lifes Too Short, management has to be creative & pro-active in these times for a successful operation.

sam siklas
sam siklas on April 10, 2014 at 10:16 am

Once the restoration project has progressed far enough, the New York Theater Organ Society will begin the process of re-installing a Robert Morton Wonder organ into the Kings. The console used will be the original which was installed the year the theater opened in 1929. With the King’s smaller mezzanine/large main floor seating area, the Morton will have a nicely open area to speak into – it should be a “Wonder” to hear it!

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