Congress Theatre

1561 St. John's Place,
Brooklyn, NY 11213

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rivest266
rivest266 on September 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Uploaded an aerial showing the rooftop cinema.

J_Dousmanis
J_Dousmanis on April 17, 2013 at 9:51 pm

Hi, Permits were issued in 2012 and interior of theater was gutted. It you go by today you will see they have added steel beams inside shell of building. It looks like they are adding four floors of space above orchestra level. I also went up to the old roof open air theater. It had a separate stair way in the inside that went up to it. When I gained access I went from supper market back storage area. There was a ladder that went up 10 feet to top of store ceiling. There were sheets of plywood on top of supports for ceiling that went to left box seat. You entered box seat and then hallways. Lobby of theater had a car repair shop in it. Stairs were bricked up. The store manager said it was safe but I had doubts. JOHN D.

Bway
Bway on June 9, 2011 at 5:40 pm

If you move along the street view to Buffalo Ave, and around to the side of the huge theater building, you can see the remnants of the old entrance to the Associated Supermarket that was there for a while. Apparently, the building is just open to the elements, and you can even see vagrants inside the building going through the open area of what was the supermarket. Click here for this depressing view

Lenox
Lenox on April 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm

My then girlfriend Marsha G and I spent nearly every Friday night from August to December 1962 at the Congress.

Orlando
Orlando on July 20, 2010 at 8:04 am

P.S. How’s your friend Steven who also worked the Granada when you were there.

Orlando
Orlando on July 20, 2010 at 8:01 am

To Paul Kupperberg….I remember you from the Granada Theatre days and remember Irene, the cashier talking endlessly about how beautiful the Congress was and the marble staircase in the lobby.
She was a great lady and I am glad I had the pleasure of knowing her and all from the Granada Theatre. I finally saw the marble staircase as photographed within the last two years from friends of mine. The Congress still retains a lot of it’s glamour and architecture. Reach me at I go under the name Orlando on Cinema Treasures but you would know me as Lenny.

PaulKupperberg
PaulKupperberg on July 15, 2010 at 7:31 am

We lived at 276 Buffalo Avenue, right around the corner from the Congress, where I saw my first movie, ‘The Three Stooges in Orbit’ with my 10-year older uncle, who sat us in the Loge so he could smoke. My grandmother had been the ticket seller at the Congress in the 1930s and, if I’m not mistaken, my grandfather, an electrician who died in 1930, had been a projectionist there. In the early 1970s when I went to work as an usher in another great old Brooklyn movie house, the Granada at Church and Nostrand Avenues (up from the Bickfords), the owner, Max Schering, and the cashier, Irene, a grandmother-aged woman herself, remembered my grandparents, Max from when he had been an userher and Irene because my grandmother had trained her to be a cashier at the Congress in the 1930s! And just to complete the circle, I recently learned that my grandfather, who I knew had passed out and died one hot day in his car on his way to work, died outside the Grenada!

BTW, great picture, Albert! I remember it well!

Paul Kupperberg

acassius
acassius on March 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

I was lucky enough to grow up on that block. My family and I lived at 1567 St. Johns Place between 1957 and 1963. A fire forced us out for a few months in the early 60’s.
Here is a link with a picture of my uncle in front of the Marquee.

View link

Thanks,
Albert Cassius

certrix
certrix on December 27, 2008 at 1:43 am

As a kid in the 1950’s I attended many a Saturday Matinee at the Congress. In 1974 on a visit to Brooklyn, I climbed the outer staircase on Buffalo and managed to make it to the roof. I saw the rooftop stage and evidence of where the seats had been. I even managed to snap a few photos of what I saw.

I did not attempt to decend into the theater though, I was wary of what might be lurking there. The outside steps were rusting away but I made it to ground level. I thank Mr. Harris for confirming what I discovered in my adventure.

PhillyG
PhillyG on July 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm

As a child in the 50’s we lived around the corner from the Congress Theater. Every night, we ate dinner on the plates that my grandmother collected there throughout the 30s and 40s. I seem to recall her saying that they gave a free dish every Tuesday evening.

Yves Marchand
Yves Marchand on June 20, 2008 at 10:20 pm

We’ve been inside the theater this week by walking in the back alley. The stage part is gutted and there is no remaining seats, even on the balcony, but the ceiling and walls are almost intact with the ornamentations still in place. Projectors were removed.
The 2 lobbies were altered but still recognizable.
Except for the grocery in the corner, the entire block including the theater and other former storefronts are vacant.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 17, 2007 at 5:24 pm

A Wurlitzer theater organ opus 1649 style H NP was installed in the Congress Theater on 6/3/1927.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 22, 2007 at 7:29 am

Randforce Amusement was part of a holding company called Metropolitan Playhouses, which was formed by the creditors of William Fox’s theatrical enterprises after he went bankrupt. Randforce took over the management of all the Brooklyn Fox theatres and a few that bordered on Queens (the giant Fox in downtown Brooklyn was not part of the deal). Skouras Theatres ran the houses in Manhattan, the Bronx, and parts of New Jersey and Long Island. A third company, Prudential, took over theatres in Suffolk County, LI. After Metropolitan Playhouses was formed, RKO Theatres purchased a 25% interest in the company, which explains why the RKO, Skouras, Randforce and Prudential chains usually played the same programs (though not all at the same time)…The CEOs of Randforce had prveiously owned the Supreme Circuit before selling out to Fox. Those men, Sam Rinzler & Emanuel Frisch, were picked to run Randforce because of their earlier experiences with the theatres. Somewhere along the line, Joseph Schenck began buying interests in Metropolitan Playhouses, and eventually all of those theatres became part of United Artists Theatre Circuit. Despite its name, UATC had no connection with United Artists Corporation.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on September 21, 2007 at 5:00 pm

The Congress was listed as part of the Randforce Amusement chain in 1963. This was a company headquartered on 1515 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. President was Sam Rinzler. Here are the Randforce theaters in Brooklyn at that time:

Alba, Ambassador, Benson, Beverly, Biltmore, Carroll, Clinton, Colonial, Commodore, Congress, Culver, Duffield, Embassy, Highway, Kinema, Marboro, Meserole, Oasis, Rainbow, Republic, Ridgewood, Savoy, Stadium, Stone, Supreme and Walker.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 10, 2007 at 11:26 am

1 KILLED, 2 WOUNDED IN THEATRE HOLD-UP; Three Off-Duty Policemen Shoot It Out With Five Thugs in Fox’s Congress, Brooklyn. BANDIT SLAIN, OTHERS FLEE One, Shot in Eye, Helps to Carry Wounded Patrolman to Hospital, Then Escapes. Used Stolen Auto. 1 KILLED, 2 WOUNDED IN THEATRE HOLD-UP Get Treasurer From Home.

NY Times February 24, 1931

After kidnapping the manager and assistant treasurer of Fox’s Congress Theatre, 1561 St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, late last night, one bandit was killed, another wounded and a policeman seriously wounded when five thugs shot it out with three offduty patrolmen who arrived in front of the theatre in time to avert the robbery of the safe which contained $4,500.

conklinwj
conklinwj on February 3, 2007 at 6:02 am

I lived on Buffalo Ave about 4 blocks from the Congress Theater in the mid-50s and went there quite often as a youngster. I remember an open air outter lobby right off the street. The movies that were coming next were advertised here (new movies always seemed to open on Wednesdays in those days). Recessed about 12-15 feet off the street were glass doors. When you went through these doors you were in a pretty good size inner lobby where the “Coming Soon” features were advertised on the walls. In the middle of the wall on the right was the ticket window. If I remember correctly, tickets for kids under 12 in the mid 50s were $.26 (a quarter and a penny tax). You then proceeded to the back right corner of the inner lobby where you gave your ticket to the ticket taker.

Once inside, I believe the candy counter was in front of you as you entered the theater. Once you bought your popcorn, you walked to the right to enter the movie theater itself.

I spend many enjoyable Saturday afternoons in the Congress Theater watching westerns and the great monster movies of the 50s.

I hope my description will bring back fond memories to others who remember the Congress Theater as I do.

KenRoe
KenRoe on July 6, 2006 at 11:46 pm

The furniture store which used the main St. John Place entrance must have later become a wholesale store (which when seen in June 2006 is closed). The supermarket using the former auditorium has also closed, leaving the entire building shuttered and unused.

Here are a couple of recent exterior photographs I took in June 2006:
http://flickr.com/photos/kencta/183695045/
http://flickr.com/photos/kencta/183695387/

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 29, 2005 at 3:17 pm

The certificate of occupancy for this building was issued on February 2, 1928. It was a newly constructed building. Architect listed is C.A. Sandblom. First floor theater consists of 2223 seats and the roof garden had 1298 seats.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 25, 2004 at 10:59 am

The Congress, which also had a roof theatre, was designed by Charles Sandblom and first opened in 1927.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 1, 2004 at 4:34 pm

This was so briefly a Fox theatre that I would hesitate in calling it the Fox Congress. William Fox acquired it during his buying frenzy in the late 1920s, but soon lost it when he went bankrupt.

William
William on November 14, 2003 at 6:04 pm

The Fox Congress Theatre was located at 1561 St Johns Place and it seated 2177 people.