Loew's Melba Theatre

300 Livingston Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11217

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Showing 1 - 25 of 38 comments

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.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on March 14, 2011 at 8:18 am

On this night only in 1952, Loew’s Melba presented eight acts of “Vodvil,” with the popular Pat. Rooney, Jr. as headliner. Also on the program were Paramount’s Technicolor “When Worlds Collide” and Paramount’s B&W “Submarine Command,” both in the third day of a week’s engagement.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on December 17, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The theatre was still being operated as Keeney’s in an ad in the Brooklyn Sunday Eagle on April 4th, 1927, with no mention of a Loew’s connection. The Keeney’s policy then was a sub-run feature film and vaudeville, with program changes on Mondays and Thursdays. It’s possible that Loew’s was now in control but taking its time about a re-naming.

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.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on December 16, 2010 at 6:39 am

The first Loew’s name was Livingston (honoring Livingston Street, and not spelled Livingstone). According to legend, Livingston was discarded because it had too many letters for the electrical signage that was planned, and also might cause confusion with Loew’s Lexington in Manhattan.

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.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on September 9, 2010 at 7:58 am

Joe, it’s wonderful to be able to see those Architecture & Building photos with such clarity. I have tried numerous times to view them on microfilm at public libraries, but they were always too dark to see much detail. I have never been able to find out whether it was the fault of the microfilm, the viewing machines, or both. Is the entire publication run of A&B accessible through Google, or just certain issues?

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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 18, 2009 at 9:39 am

Keeney’s Theatre first opened on January 18th, 1915, with “World’s Best Vaudeville” and a price scale that reached a top of 25 cents at evening performances (about $5.25 in 2009). The first program, which ran for three days, consisted of Adele Ritchie, the Acme Comedy Four, the 5 Musical Buanos, Wilson & Pierson, Sherman DeForest & Company, Dewitt & Stewart, and the 12 Sons of the Desert.
View link

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.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 25, 2008 at 7:18 am

In June, 1922, the Keeney Theatre made headlines when a 25-year-old man seated in the top tier of boxes fell about 35 feet onto the orchestra floor and landed on two other male patrons. One of the latter suffered several broken ribs and a fractured right thigh, but the man next to him was only bruised and did not require hospitalization. According to a report in The New York Times of 6/18/22, the incident took place while the auditorium was in darkness for the showing of the feature movie. A thud was heard, followed by screaming. The theatre was filled to capacity, but the ushering staff helped to avert panic. The house lights were turned on and everyone was instructed to remain in their seats as medicos arrived on the scene. The injured two were rushed to Holy Family Hospital, where the man who fell from the box seat died two days later from a fractured skull and internal injuries. The deceased had apparently been intoxicated when he fell. Two whiskey bottles were found on the floor of the box, one empty and the other half-filled.

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 23, 2008 at 8:55 am

Erik, you can find my e-mail address on my CT membership page.

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 23, 2008 at 8:35 am

Eric, here’s the new link:
View link

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!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 23, 2008 at 8:08 am

After some frustrating experiences at the NYPL with lost or misplaced microfilm that was finally found, I read the article about the Keeney Theatre in the April, 1915 issue of Architecture and Building Magazine. No opening date was given, but it must have been that year or late in 1914. Here is the text of the article: “The new Keeney theatre building covers 22,200 square feet, and in the auditorium and one balcony seats 3,000 people. The construction is of steel with brick walls and reinforced concrete floor systems, with an entrance facade carried out in ornamental polychrome terra cotta and white Vermont marble, the roof being of green tile. The auditorium has a width of 90 feet, and there is not a post in the house, the balcony being carried by steel trusses and cantilever construction. The stage has a width of 82 feet and a depth of 40 feet. The decorations are well carried out and in fine materials. The color scheme is in rose, cream and gold, with a large proscenium decoration. The entrance lobby is also highly decorated, containing a fine mural by Arthur Brounet over the entrance to the inner foyer. This foyer is spacious and contains a white marble staircase leading to the balcony promenade.”

Unfortunately, I had my usual problems with making copies from NYPL microfilm. I believe it’s more the fault of outmoded and inefficient reading machines than the microfilm itself. Here’s the best I could get of photos of the auditorium, facade, and entrance lobby. They will have to do until something better comes along:
View link
View link
View link

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on July 11, 2008 at 9:10 am

The original Keeney’s Theatre had William E. Lehman as architect, according to a report in the April, 1915 issue of Architecture & Building Magazine. I doubt if Loew’s made many architectural changes when it took over and changed the name to Melba. Most of the money probably went to installing sound equipment and new exterior signage.