Rainbow Theatre

167 Graham Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Unfavorite 8 people favorited this theater

Showing 1 - 25 of 95 comments

dleivick on October 18, 2016 at 10:33 am

I am discussing the old days with my 85 year old mother who tells me she was a candy girl at this theatre in 1947. More importantly, she is a relative of Manny Frisch who was the son of Louis Frisch, the originator of Randforce which built this theatre.

johndereszewski on September 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

Chris, thanks – I guess – for leading me to the Google map of this site. It is awfully depressing. Something that really could have added to the beauty of this area has wantonly been destroyed.

On the other hand, it was great hearing from you and I hope you are doing well.

Bway on September 12, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Astyanax, that is incorrect. There is an apartment building where the Rainbow lobby used to be on Graham. If you type the address into google maps, and look at the street view, you can view various years of google images of street view, dating back a few years to when the building used to be there. The Rainbow Clothes shop next door to the former lobby entrance is the vacant “gaping hole”. https://goo.gl/maps/nr9iriNwbnL2

The same can be said of the Meserole side of the building where the auditorium once stood. Completely built on.


Astyanax on September 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm

Attended a family funeral at nearby, majestic Holy Trinity RC Church. There is a gaping hole from the corner of Meserole St/Graham Ave, to where the Rainbow once stood. Despite the highly touted gentrification of the area, it all seems quite desolate without the Rainbow. Similarly, the Broadway site where the Commodore once stood also remains undeveloped.

johndereszewski on February 18, 2014 at 11:20 am

I visited the site over the past weekend. It looked dreadful. It appears that they have demolished most of the site and only the front area – which has already been separated from the rest of the mostly demolished building and may soon experience a similar fate – remains for the present.

This development, in short. represents the worst possible alternative that the old Rainbow could have experienced.

Sorry to be the messenger on this.

Bway on December 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Again, I totally agree with both of you….just that the above can’t be changed to “demolished”, as it wasn’t demolished in the same way the “Commodore” was. That said, it doesn’t make it any better.

Astyanax on December 30, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I couldn’t agree with John more. The shell that’s left bears no connection to the neighborhood gem that along with the Alba, the Commodore & the Republic afforded Williamsburg a respite from the hardships faced during the Depression & WWII. At least the twin spires of John’s alma mater, MHT remain in the background watching over the dwellers of remaining tenements and now the condos.

johndereszewski on December 30, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Bway, it really is the same situation that would exist if they destroyed the Ridgewood’s facade – which, thanks to Landmarks Preservation, they cannot – and then built anything they wanted to build within the remaining shell. In this sense, the Rainbow presents the worst of both worlds.

Bway on December 30, 2013 at 10:02 am

John, while I agree with you, it’s sickening….that said, it isn’t really “demolished”, as they are building the new construction within and above the shell of the old theater building, so while it’s been shelled to the bare bricks, and pulled back a little, the original shell of the base of the first few floors of the new building are in fact still the walls of the old theater. “Demolished” is not accurate…although if there was a setting for “semi-demolished”. It’s somewhat similar to the complete shelling of and partial destruction of the old Oasis theater on Fresh Pond Rd, although in that case, no new construction was built into the old building yet, even if the entire Fresh Pond facade, as well as the lobby half of the building were demolished.

johndereszewski on December 30, 2013 at 6:10 am

In looking at the very depressing pictures that Williamsburg 145 look last summer, it is certain that the old Rainbow is no more. The central facade, which could have been a grand entrance, was totally destroyed and what was constructed seems to be new work. So, I guess the “Demolished” label needs to be applied here. RIP.

If you want to feel sick, you can check out these pictures in the photo section. But be forewarned.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on August 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

John – I don’t know anything about the developers plans other than what’s been said already. I can confirm that there is nothing left of the Rainbow Theatre except for the shell.

LuisV on June 23, 2012 at 7:51 am

Here is the link to the story announcing the interior demolition. Alas, It has been completely gutted.


johndereszewski on June 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

Thanks for your response, ollyoxen. Given the current R-6 zoning of the area, I believe that the condo conversion of this property could probably go forward “as of right”. This is why the successful submission of a building permit was probably all that the developer had to do in order to get a green light from the NYC Building Department. The only possible issue here could concern additional parking space requirements. But this has apparently not stopped this project from advancing.

Regarding the exterior, one would hope that the Graham Ave. entrance to the old Rainbow – what will probably also be the entrance to the new condo – will remain as is – and hopefully be returned to its former glory. While this makes great real estate marketing sense, you never know how these short term bottom liners will approach this issue. Hopefully, rationality – and long term good business sense – will prevail here.

ollyoxen on June 22, 2012 at 10:02 am

Sorry, I misspoke. The interior is all being destroyed, but the building is not being razed. It’s being converted into 6 story frontage on Meserole and 4 stories on Graham, with modifications to exterior ‘as needed’…The permit approves it for Residential R-2. Basically another condo. http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2012/06/williamsburgs-rainbow-theater-gets-a-major-gut/?stream=true

This should have been landmarked!!!

I don’t know how they got the zoning approved to convert from the movie theater/chapel into residential, ugh.

johndereszewski on June 21, 2012 at 5:42 am

This is really awful news, especially since we had, for a while at least, some hope that sometime positve might occur here.

One question: ollyoxen, by “demolition, do you mean the actual razing of the building or the gut renovation of the interior? While both options are pretty terrible, at least the latter would keep the exterior in place.

Also, Matt, have you seen the plans for the development of this site and, if so, can you share them with us?

Talk soon.

ollyoxen on June 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

Its being demolished as of today. The demo team couldn’t tell me anything about the owner/new plans. Matt Lambros, do you know how much it sold for/whats going to become of it? Such a loss- my backyard leads to the Rainbow Theatre backyard, had really hoped for something wonderful and maintaining the original features and functions to come here! Wish we could at least get in and salvage some of the theater seats or SOMETHING…

Astyanax on June 20, 2012 at 10:00 am

Sad loss of a lovely auditorium.

Matt Lambros
Matt Lambros on June 20, 2012 at 8:22 am

It’s already been sold and is currently being converted into a mixed use building.

The plans don’t call for any theater space in the building, so I assume it will be stripped.

Flynn on April 10, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Found a picture by accident for you guys from 1939.

johndereszewski on January 16, 2012 at 2:33 pm

While I do not believe that the Rainbow is still being used actively as a church, it appears that the church elders – if that is what they are called – are trying to keep the place in good shape to enhance its value to potential buyers. So I do not think that a Ridgewood-like situation is occurring here……. I also agree that the Rainbow can serve as a terrific arts and performance center – they might even show movies once in a while – to the new East Willliamsburg community – though the price will be steep. If the BushwickBk blog is ever resurrected, this would be the place to push this idea.

Astyanax on January 16, 2012 at 1:54 pm

With all the arts activities going on in East Williamsburg you would think that someone could come up with a viable plan for a mixed-use venue. I’m assuming that the Rainbow is still being used as a house of worship and not subject to the temperature extremes afflicting the Ridgewood.

Bway on January 16, 2012 at 11:42 am

Hi John, I am keeping the same hope alive for the Ridgewood Theater too… “It’s not over till the fat lady sings”, so they say…. I was disappointed in the recent photos posted of the Ridgewood. In just 4 short years, the theater’s paint is really peeling inside, probably because the building is no longer heated in the winter, or Air Conditioned in the summer, so the extreme cold, heat and humidity have already taken it’s toll.

johndereszewski on January 16, 2012 at 10:48 am

I passed by the old Rainbow a week ago. Nothing has changed since my last visit and it still appears to be on the market. While I share Astyanax’s doubts about the economic feasibility of reviving the place for theatrical purposes, one can always hope.

Astyanax on April 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm

As much as I’d want the Rainbow to be restored as a movie theatre, I can’t imagine that the economics would prove that feasible. Granted that the enighborhood has now become hip and trendy, that stretch of Graham Ave does not get the pedestrian traffic that you might see on Bedford Ave. or Grand St., or a few blocks closer to the L train station. Unless there is a special exhibition niche, there is always the competition from Netflicks and cable to consider. I would be delighted to be proven wrong, and would plan on showing up for an opening day. Now if I could only get my old high school buddies to join me…..

ktdd on April 9, 2011 at 9:26 am

I was walking by the Rainbow today and saw some guys outside cleaning it out. I convinced one of the gentlemen to let me peek inside (even though he was adamant that I needed to call the landlord first—cheers to feminine wiles!).

There’s water damage to the ceiling in various, but they’ve been trying to keep it under control until the property is sold. It still has about 1700 seats, and the interior seems to be relatively unchanged. It’s clearly been painted over and simplified, but I noticed a chandelier in the lobby that had to be original (as well as a few other things—it was very dark, and I only had a few moments to look in as my eyes adjusted form the sun outside).

I knew the theater was on the market was $12 million, and asked the guy how things were progressing. He said that someone was making a bid on the property for significantly less than the listed price, and that their intent was to turn the Rainbow back into a theater. Awesome! It sounds like the current owners really love the building and want to sell it to someone who can restore it to some extent. At the very least, I don’t believe the building will be torn down like so many other theaters in the neighborhood. I’d LOVE to have an indie film house around here—but any sort of theater would do. Bring back the Rainbow!