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 held featuring Brooklyn Ballet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, TriBeCaStan and the Casym Steel Orchestra. On February 3, 2015, a concert by Diana Ross officially reopened the Kings Theatre.

Contributed by Porter Faulkner, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,419 comments)

theatrefan
theatrefan on February 14, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Orlando! Thank your for the amazing description of the original neon! Did the Kings originally use milk glass letter to spell out the titles of the films that were playing? I see that the Jersey originally had a French Curve marquee similar to the Kings, but nowhere near as ornate. Both were replaced in 1949, that the Jersey still has. I wish someone saved the neon letter from the former Kings marquee, although the Loew’s name was off of it at the end.

BobbyS
BobbyS on February 14, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Thanks Orlando for the great answers. I thought neon came along in the 30’s. Now I know I was wrong. Years and years later LED is the fashion of the times.

Orlando
Orlando on February 18, 2015 at 11:45 am

The original 1929 letters were opaque 3-D glass with black outlines. Uncovered during renovation above the box office wer the same letters with the black outlines painted gold, what a suprise! They wer up for some months and spelled out: Top Line WELCOME TO LOEW’S KINGS SHOWCASE THEATRE 2nd: LATE SHOWS ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHTS.

theatrefan
theatrefan on February 19, 2015 at 8:57 am

There is a photo online of that sign underneath the marquee online just as Orlando describes. Also that original sign was covered up by another sign that simply said “Welcome To Loew’s Kings Showcase Theatre” I wonder where both those signs are today? I hope they were saved for prosperity.

sgreenberg
sgreenberg on March 22, 2015 at 11:20 am

I was so happy to see how beautiful the restoration of the Kings was when I attended the open house last month. I got some nice photos and hope to show them to my aunt Dorothy, who retired as the manager of the Loew’s Kings in the ‘70s. She’s now 101 years old and I’m sure she’ll be thrilled at the news of the theater’s return.

NYer
NYer on March 23, 2015 at 11:41 am

Please sgreenberg report back on her reaction. I can’t imagine it would be anything but a thrill for her to see how glorious this cinema treasure looks now.

Orlando
Orlando on March 23, 2015 at 11:57 am

To Mr. Greenberg.

 The furnishings, couch, king high back chairs, the wooden carved chair, the two Louis the XIV patterned chairs, round table, and two marrle top tables are now on view in the upprr mezzanine restroom all restored. No one is allowed to sit on them and they are ropped off. Your aunt, Dorothy Penzica (please forgive me if I spelt the last name wrong, was manager of the Loew's Kings when I was attending the theatre from 1966 to 1975. I remember her well. At the time (1970-1974), I worked at the Granada Theatre at Church and Nostrand Avenues. There was a policy between the seven theatres to pass employees from the Beverly, Kenmore, Astor, Albemarle, Granada, Kings and Rialto to each other for coplimentary movies. I always paid to see movies at these theatres and didn't ask for passes to the other theatres and was unaware of the policy. In 1972, I told my manager at the Granada (Mr. Sam L.) that I was going to the "Loew-eze" to see a movie and he said he would call me in a pass. Being unawre ot the pass policy, I told him I didn,t know about and he said to me "You've been paying to go to all those theatres? Ha! Ha!" and I said yes. He then told me about the policy and got me into the Loew's Kings. When I got there, your aunt, Mrs. Penzica was called out to the box office and personally escorted me into the theatre on my pass. She said to me, "I've seen you here before many times and took me to the office. She offered me a job and I said, "I've worked at the Granada for four years and the staff there is like my second family and like me a lot." She understood as she smiled at me. I said "Thank you very much for the offer and told her "I loved the Loew's Kings very much" She replied, "Thank you and you are welcome here anytime." What a fantastic manager she was and a fine person she is to deed the furniture back to Kings Theatre. I will watch over it in her memory as long as I am an employee of her Kings Theatre. Working there today was a life long dream of mine and it became true when I was offered a position at the theatre by the current ACE Theatrical Group for which I have the highest gratitude. Thank you Matt (for taking care of your own), Charley (for spotting me take a picture of the facade) and Jason and Dan for training me for a live venue. Most of all the Front of House Staff (you all know who you are), for being the great people that you are, I LOVE YOU ALL!!!
                  

and look forward to seeing you every time I work, you are my family at every event in our Kings Theatre.

                         Sincerely yours,
                
                                           Orlando Lopes
                  
Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on March 29, 2015 at 1:32 am

Nice report on Saturday’s NBC Nightly News…

markp
markp on March 29, 2015 at 8:23 am

Did not know it was on. Missed it.

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