Graham Cinema

3171 Whitney Avenue,
Gerritsen Beach,
Brooklyn, NY 11229

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The Graham Theater was a one-level neighborhood house that was unique in that its projector booth was at the back of the inner lobby and had a nearly thousand-foot throw to the screen. The image was usually diffused by the light of the lobby and its candy stand. There was little separation between the theater and the lobby so you could see everything that went on outside.

The theater was a last-run house which screened double features, with shows changing twice a week.

The theater closed in the late-1960’s, was sold and renovated to become one of the first dollar theaters in Brooklyn. It became an instant success, and eventually raised its prices and showed some first-run fare like "The Exorcist".

A fire forced its closing in the early-1980’s, and the building laid dormant for years, until a developer bought it, razed it and built condominiums on the site. Oddly, the condo development has the exact same shape of the old theater and bears the Graham name.

Contributed by philipgoldberg

Recent comments (view all 26 comments)

RobertR
RobertR on September 17, 2006 at 12:44 pm

send me your email I will send it as an attachment for you. Mine is

michelemarie
michelemarie on September 17, 2006 at 2:26 pm

My e-mail is Thanks Robert. Go on the Republic Theater and copy Warren’s Photobucket pic. It’s great. Do you remember the R & F on Grand Street Ext. and Keap Street? Anniegirl

bkbill
bkbill on March 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm

The first time that I went to the Graham I was quite young. I walked with my sitter from our homes near Batchelder St. and Ave. S. It was a hot summer day — typical 1940’s weather. After we crossed Ave. U it was mostly vacant weed filled lots.
The Graham stood by itself. As I remember it there was very little else there except for PS 194 and the Brooklyn Robbins baseball field. It was during WWII. The film that we saw was British and had something to do with women training to be paratroopers. My sitter, Dorothy Ann, kept saying â€" “I could do that.” I think I must have been about seven and she was all of twelve. The place wasn’t air-conditioned but we were use to that then.
The Graham showed a lot of films that weren’t on the Century circuit. The Century chain dominated our neighborhood.
The next time that I went was later in that decade to see two films that were not on the Century Circuit and still can’t be found on VCR or DVD today. “Salty O’Rourke” and “The Man in Half Moon Street.” They were better than good!
Still later in the decade I attended a Saturday afternoon showing of “Jungle Book” staring Sabu. All the wild life was not just on the screen that day. A rat crossed the aisle about ten rows in front of me and disappeared into some vacant seats. My attention had been drawn by a laughing commotion in the effected area. We were a tough bunch of kids. Today I think the theater would have been closed and fumigated.

marex54
marex54 on April 10, 2009 at 7:54 am

late 1950’s, Saturday double-features, cartoons, shorts, and a lot of Abbott & Costello.
Two “matrons” patrolling the aisles with flashlights telling us to be quiet and to take our feet off the seat backs in front of us.
Kids always trying sneak their friends in through the fire doors near the screen, so obvious by the sliver of daylight piercing the dark theater through the cracked-open door.
Then the fun began. Matrons running wildly down the aisles waving their flashlights trying to catch the culprits as they quickly took off in all directions, triggering an all out search throughout the theater.
Some kids, to avoid being caught, would bolt out the very same fire doors they entered after leading the matrons on a merry chase up and the aisles.
One unforgettable moment, as one kid was running out the door he turned back to one of the matrons and yelled,
“Aahh, go lay a hot faht!!"
Great memories of Brooklyn.

jhansel
jhansel on February 18, 2010 at 8:43 pm

It’s great to read all the stories about the Graham at 3171 Whitney Avenue, because my grandfather was the original owner and the ONLY owner throughout the Graham’s life as a cinema. It was in my family for over 50 years, although we did not operate it ourselves after 1960.

The building was originally a trolley car barn, which accounts for the long and narrow shape, unusual for a cinema. When trolley service disappeared from Brooklyn, the city sold off the building. My grandfather, who owned a few other cinemas in Brooklyn, bought it and turned the trolley car barn into a 900+ seat cinema. He operated it for decades. In the Great Depression, he would give away a five-pound bag of sugar for every 100th ticket. Tickets were a quarter of a buck.

After he retired he leased the Graham out to various operators in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. When the cinema finally closed, I did a walk-through to figure out what we should do with the building. Since nobody in the family lived in Brooklyn or was free to move there and run a cinema, we decided to sell the property. After we sold it a builder turned the old shell into condos by digging out the parking lot and created a few levels for the apartments.

Keep the stories coming. If I find the old family photos I will try to post some here!

jhansel
jhansel on February 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

One more story: During that final walk-through before we sold the Graham, I found a lot of 35mm film that had been strewn about the lobby from the projection booth above. I suspect that it was the print of the last film ever shown at the Graham, “10” starring Bo Derek.

Seppy
Seppy on April 16, 2010 at 9:31 am

Hi Jim H,
My brother and I have wonderful memories of the Graham.
If you have any photos, we’d really appreciate it.

Seppy

jhansel
jhansel on April 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Hi Seppy,

Thanks for the good thoughts. We’ll keep searching for those photos.

Jim

gellybelly49
gellybelly49 on September 21, 2012 at 5:32 am

ahhh- the Graham! my neighborhood cinema; I lived in the nearby projects on W and Batchelder and nearly EVERY saturday of my childhood was spent in that darkened palace for the matinees (only $.35, later $.50). Mom used to give us $1.00 for the show, and there was enough left over to buy a sugar daddy, hot dog and soda and then go buy a comic book at the corner store on knapp and ave X on the way home. my favorite schedules always seemed to include Abbot & Costello films as part of the double feature, which began with the great B&W screener for “previews of Coming Attraction” loads of cartoons (usually Merrie Melodies) and then two films; an afternoon of pleasure, enter at 12 or 1230 and home in time for dinner by 530! my friends and I used to “tightwalk” the railing at the adjacent driveway; sometimes, we’d sneak someone in but often got nailed by the stern Matrons in their blue and white uniforms as they flashed the torchlights looking for those who opened the exit doors to allow “interlopers” to steal in without paying. I saw “the thing from another world” there at the age of 7 and it gave me nightmares for weeks thereafter; (it’s one of my favorite sci-fi films to this day). in fact, many of my favorite films today are the result of the education garnered from drowsy afternoons at the Graham, the Tarzan double features, musicals, westerns (that I took my grandfather to see – he loved “cowboy and indian movies”). Though we had a plethora of Century owned theaters in sheepshead bay, such as the Marine, Nostrand, Sheepshead, Brook, Mayfair et al, the Graham was our neighborhood palace- not ornate in any way, mind you, but a few short walking blocks from home. it was also where I took my first “date” at the age of 9 – the twins, maureen and madeline to see Oklahoma! My dream as a child was to grow up and buy the Graham, turn it into my own bijou and show the films I wanted to see and share with other patrons. When I travel back to the old neighborhood, I always drive by, and park in front of the sad looking condos that replaced my childhood pleasure palace and reminisce. God Bless that old movie house, and thanks for the memories!

BF45789
BF45789 on December 6, 2012 at 11:59 am

foud advistment for the movie house from the 1940"s

trying to find pictures of the place

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