970 Fulton Street,
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The Criterion Theatre opened in 1885, and began showing movies at least as early as 1909, but 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.
One of its briefest runs was as the Brooklyn Garrick, a stock house which operated for only a few weeks in November and December of 1900. One of its longer periods of success was as Keeney’s Fulton Street Theatre, part of Frank Keeney’s vaudeville circuit, from 1904 to 1909. This was followed by five years as Jones' Theatre, a combination vaudeville and movie house.
In 1915, the theater was remodeled and reopened as the Putnam Theatre, but a few months later it was gutted by fire. It reopened a few months later under the same name, but continued to be a hard-luck house, none of its repeated changes of policy leading to lasting success.
The theater operated under at least nine different names over four decades, but returned to the name Criterion Theatre repeatedly. It ended its career as a theater in 1929, under its original name, operating as an African-American burlesque house. After suffering several fires over the next few years, the building was finally demolished in 1937.
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