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 1,457 comments)

tntim
tntim on June 4, 2015 at 3:24 am

If you have not seen this episode of the Blueprint NYC series devoted to the Loew’s Wonder Theaters that was aired on April 7th, here is a direct link. It really is worth watching. Link

Robbie25646
Robbie25646 on June 9, 2015 at 4:55 am

tntim, Thank you for posting the link to Loew’s Wonder theatres, a wonderful example of what can be done to save the theatres of yesteryear.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 16, 2015 at 3:17 pm

They spent so many millions on this (and it looks great, I’m not complaining). But after all that why not spend a little more to put in a new vertical marquee? Does anyone know the story behind that?

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 16, 2015 at 5:15 pm

On February 14, 2015, Orlando wrote: “A new replica of the vertical sign will read K I N G S with Theatre below it when it is installed at a later date. Personally, I think I would like to see the terra cotta without any sign on it.”

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 17, 2015 at 8:48 am

I know what you mean Mike. That terra cotta makes a really nice presentation. But the Kings doesn’t feel finished without a vertical sign.

LuisV
LuisV on June 18, 2015 at 5:01 am

Mike, I full hear what you are saying and I would like to agree, but……..there is nothing that says “Theatre” than a Blade! I want a Blade to return to the Kings and also to the Loew’s Jersey.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 18, 2015 at 7:49 am

Hey fellas, I wasn’t thinking that, I was just quoting Orlando.

I actually WANT to see a new vertical sign installed, lighting up Flatbush Avenue and visible from blocks away!

BobbyS
BobbyS on June 22, 2015 at 8:36 pm

LuisV is right. A neon/bulb vertical is the finishing touch that a theatre needs. The show really does begin with the signage outfront!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on June 28, 2015 at 11:22 am

I’ve heard the steel support work at the Jersey is too far gone to reinstall their vertical sign at present. I suppose that might be one positive thing to come from a big time company taking over, though I don’t generally care for the idea. I wonder what condition the support structure at the Kings is in?

theatrefan
theatrefan on June 30, 2015 at 2:28 am

The old vertical stayed on for a very long time, I remember taking pictures of it around 2000. Although the neon letters were off, you could still make out the outline of the former LOEW’S name. I would assume when the Terra Cotta got fixed, they would have to make sure the support structure underneath would have to be up to code as well.

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