Criterion Theatre

970 Fulton Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11238

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The Criterion Theatre opened October 26, 1885 with “Rosedale” starring Lester Wallack. It was owned and operated by James M. White (also referred to as Andre White). Between 1887 and 1890, it was operated by F.F. Proctor. Taken back by James M. White in 1890, he operated the Criterion Theatre until 1900. It then became Al Reeves' Music Hall from August to November 1900. Then for one month it became the Brooklyn Garrick. February 1901 saw it revert back to the Criterion Theatre name, which only lasted for one month. The theatres was then closed until January 1903, when it reopened as Payton’s Playhouse. It became a vaudeville theatre known as Keeney’s Fulton Street Theatre from February 1904 to 1909.

Frank Keeney sub-leased the theatre and it was renamed Criterion Theatre again, this time presenting vaudeville and introducing films as part of the program. New owners took over in 1910 and it was renamed Jones' Theatre, again running vaudeville and movies. This operated until 1915. It was renovated and reopened as the Putnam Theatre in 1915, but suffered from a fire which began in the second balcony on May 1, 1916. The interior of the building was gutted. The Putnam Theatre reopened August 21, 1918 as a stock burlesque house. It closed and reopen several times until 1922. Reopening as the Supreme Theatre it was a playhouse again until 1923. It reopened again as the Criterion Theatre and finally closed in 1929. The building was damaged by fire again in 1931 and was demolished in December 1937.

As can be seen it served many different theatrical purposes throughout its history. Everything from amateur theatricals to boxing matches, stock companies to burlesque to vaudeville appeared on its stage, and various managers attempted to appeal to white audiences, ethnic audiences, and black audiences at various times.

Contributed by Joe Vogel
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