Loew's Melba Theatre

300 Livingston Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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teawfran
teawfran on August 27, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Back in the late 30’s and through the 40’s and 50’s I grew up in the downtown area of Brooklyn on Smith Street. When my mother was decorating the apartment she bought a remnant, carpet, for our living room. It was some carpet left over from the Melba movie theater when they redecorated. It was beautiful, red with a gold leaf running through the carpet. Also remember going to the movies on Friday nights, Vaudeville acts were still preformed. There was also dish night. You got a dish and eventually could have a whole set of dishes.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

While I guess the past names for this theater have been further clarified, the introduction still incorrectly states that the site is now occupied by a high rise MTA office building. As clearly noted above, this is not correct and the site now “hosts” an extremely ugly parking garage.

Hopefully, this error will also be addressed.

InesitadaSilva
InesitadaSilva on December 16, 2010 at 5:39 am

Hello All,
I’ve found the discussion thread above fascinating, having arrived thanks to Tinseltoes response to my query posted over at: /theaters/3979/ regarding Keeney’s Theatre. It’s a pity though so many of the links above are no longer active – I couldn’t see the photos of the inside of the theatre, nor the ebook because I am outside the US. Never mind!

My German grandmother was part of a vaudeville act, sometimes called the Six Rockets and also the Six Marinelli Girls between 1923 and 1931, and toured much of the US. She can be seen in front of a Keeney’s poster here: View link The back of the photo says 1925.

Following the note above that the theatre became Loew’s in 1925, would anyone be able to indicate when exactly the theatre changed hands in 1925? It would help me date the photo more precisely.

I would have many other questions related to my grandmother’s life as a Loew’s and Vaudeville act, salary, life on the road, the theaters she played and so on. I have more interesting photos and vaudeville posters to share which I think will be of benefit to this community too. One challenge is finding the names for the theatres shown. I trust the ‘Looking for help’ message board will be an appropriate starting place. The background is that I am writing a book on my grandmother’s life and origins. Many thanks in advance for any assistance. Inesita

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on November 19, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Joe, it was great to view your vintage photo of this theater. I must have missed it when it was first posted.

Given that Joe’s Sept. 9th posting clearly cofirms my earlier statement that a parking garage – and an extremely ugly one at that – currently occupies the site and NOT an MTA office building, the introducion should be changed to reflect this well documented fact.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 9, 2010 at 3:36 am

Gin is correct about this theater having its entrance in mid-block between Nevins and Bond. The photo of the Keeney Theatre’s facade in a 1915 article in the trade journal Architecture and Building shows slivers of the adjacent structures on both sides. A person approaching Livingston Street from the north along Hanover Place would have seen the ornate theater front almost directly ahead of them. The theater’s auditorium, at right angles to the lobby building, was on the south side of the block, adjacent to Schermerhorn Street.

The article also has three interior photos of the Keeney Theatre. It’s now available online at Google Books (click on their Page 140 link.)

Brooklyn’s current Greyhound bus terminal has an address of 288 Livingston, and takes up the half block bounded by Livingston, Bond, and Schermerhorn streets that once included Loew’s Melba. This is not, as the intro currently states, a high-rise office building, but a four-level parking and commercial structure. The theater’s entrance was located where the garage entrance is now, opposite the end of Hanover Place. The tiled hipped roof above the entrance can be picked out in a 1954 aerial photo available for viewing at Historic Aerials, so it was still intact at that time.

Ginger
Ginger on June 17, 2010 at 8:29 pm

I’m quite sure that the Melba was located on Livingston St. between Nevins and Bond. At the time I lived on Warren St. near the corner of Nevins. I would walk north up Nevins and make a left onto Livingston heading west. The Melba was located near the middle of the block before Bond St. This was in the late 40’s and 50’s

TLSLOEWS
TLSLOEWS on February 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Interesting History.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 15, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Thanks, site manager, for making the change that I suggested.

I took advantage of my day off to visit this location. Instead of an MTA office building, the old Melba site is included in a portion of a large – and extremely ugly – parking garage that extends all the way west to Bond St. The garage is situated on the upper three or four floors of this building. Several not very upscale retail stores – pretentiously called Livingston Shoppes – are situated at street level.

The reference in the introduction to an MTA office building probably refers to the mistaken Bourum Pl. site, since such a building has been constructed there. This also needs to be corrected.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Very interesting page. However, the introduction’s claim that the Melba was situated at the corner of Livingston and Boerum Place is just wrong – and is correctly contradicted by the theater’s placement on the map. As Warren’s last link indicates, the Melba was situated at the intersection of Livingston and Hanover Place. The latter is a one block thoroughfare situated just to the east of Bond Street. Boerun Place and the new MTA building, on the other hand, are situated several blocks to the west.

While the old Melba was situated in what is only now considered the Boerum Hill community – this is very different than Boerum Place, which is an extension of Adams St. in downtown Brooklyn.

This error should be corrected.

EMarkisch
EMarkisch on November 6, 2008 at 11:57 am

The deciphered double feature on the marquee of Loew’s Melba in the 1941 linked photo above appears to read as follows:

SECOND CHORUS
with FRED ASTAIRE
and THE LONE WOLF
KEEPS A DATE

This appears to make sense as the photo is dated ¾/41. “Second Chorus” was released on 1/3/41 and “The Lone Wolf Keeps A Date” on 11/23/40.

boerumhill1849
boerumhill1849 on July 23, 2008 at 9:00 am

Excellent! I’ll be in touch soon when I can get focused on the book again as “the day job” is quite busy right now.

Erik

boerumhill1849
boerumhill1849 on July 23, 2008 at 8:42 am

Fantastic! I’m now going to make Keeney’s Theatre / Loew’s Melba into one of the longer pieces in my book. Your info has knitted together many loose pieces that I had into a much better story. You are in the NYC area, I assume? I’d love to trade some sources at some point to help each other in our history endeavours.

Erik

boerumhill1849
boerumhill1849 on July 23, 2008 at 8:23 am

Wow! That is some great, great work Warren! I’m working on a book about the history of Boerum Hill, Brooklyn and your info is tremendously helpful.

Could you repost the below piece as I can’t get the link to open anymore?
Here’s a portion of a 1929 programme:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/134-3436_IMG.jpg
posted by Warren G. Harris on Aug 21, 2005 at 4:52am

Thanks again!

boerumhill1849
boerumhill1849 on July 11, 2008 at 9:25 am

Interestingly, this theatre is often thought to be the one where Fanny Brice got her start (Keeney’s Theatre on Fulton Street) around 1905. This location was full of old houses only then. Keeney’s original theatre was the old Criterion Theatre at 966 Fulton Avenue near Grand Avenue which he took over around 1900. Keeney’s first theatre DID show movies later as seen in this 1908 article in the New York Times.
View link

boerumhill1849
boerumhill1849 on June 3, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Here is the 1941 link again:
View link

jflundy
jflundy on August 2, 2004 at 7:38 am

The 1941 photolink above shows riggers removing a large old jewelers side walk clock in the foreground on Livingston St. It will be taken to Jacob Reiss Park in the Rockaways and be used there for several decades.

jflundy
jflundy on August 1, 2004 at 8:16 pm

1941 photo of Melba:

Link to Melba

Orlando
Orlando on March 4, 2004 at 11:01 am

Another tidbit is that when Loew’s was acquiring this theatre from Keeney’s, they were considering naming it the Loew’s Livingston and it was published in a volume of Film Daily Year Book during the change of hands, but the naming never occured.

Orlando
Orlando on March 4, 2004 at 7:16 am

I just found the photo of the Brooklyn Fox and Loew’s Melba showing the Livingston Street marquee of the Fox and the vertical sign of the Loew’s Melba just two blocks to the left. It is in a postcard book of Brooklyn scenes.

Orlando
Orlando on March 2, 2004 at 6:56 pm

Mr Goldberg,
The Livingston St. marquee of the Fox Theatre which went to the end of the block on the left exterior sidewall was indeed two blocks from the Loew’s Melba Theatre. I am not talking about the Flatbush Avenue entrance of the theatre and even that entrance is a ¼ mile from the front of the Melba. What did you do, walk around the block a couple of times?

philipgoldberg
philipgoldberg on March 2, 2004 at 3:13 pm

This theater was at the western end of Livingston while the FOX stood on Flatbush north of Livingston at least a mile east of the Melba.

William
William on March 2, 2004 at 8:34 am

The Loew’s Melba Theatre seated 2256 people.

Orlando
Orlando on March 2, 2004 at 7:25 am

Loew’s Melba started out as Keeney’s in 1902 or thereabouts. It was named for Frank A. Keeney, the owner. It was a showcase for local talent and it is said that Fanny Brice got her start here. The house featured vaudeville and sond and dance routines. When other downtown palaces incorporated vaudeville into their photoplay programs, vaudeville by itself was a hard sell. Mr. Keeney ( who was portrayed in “Funny Girl” ) withdrew in 1926 and Loew’s stepped in. This gave Loew’s 3 houses within a 2 block radius, the others being the Metropolitan and the Bijou ( already playing after the Metropolitan ). The Bijou (1894-1931) closed in 1931 and the Melba picked up their run. Loew’s Melba at 300 Livingston Street was near the Livingston Street entrance of the Fox Theatre ( The Fox had two entrances at the time of its' opening ) up a block or so. Loew’s Melba was demolished in 1954, the same year the RKO Orpheum and Momart Theatres were torn down.

jflundy
jflundy on March 2, 2004 at 12:26 am

The Melba was a very old theater dating back to the late 1870’s or early 1880’s from what I can recall. It was quite ornate and the entrance lobby was long and mirrored and highly decorated. It was built in the gaslight era or perhaps before it but gas fixtures were still present in some areas although it had long been wired by the 1950’s. The last time I was there it was to see a double feature of the “African Queen” and the “Captive City”. It was clean and well kept at that time which I think was in August of 1951 or 1952 but a section of the balcony had been beem closed of by the Department of Buildings due to structural problems and so posted and roped off. The place closed a few weeks later never to reopen. I took time to check over the place carefully that day as it was a gem unlike any theater I had seen and had an aged, musty odor. I think it was the cost of repairs that led to its being closed by Lowe’s at this time rather than TV as it was well patronized when I was there on a weekday afternoon.