Canarsie Theater

9310 Avenue L,
Brooklyn, NY 11236

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Showing 1 - 25 of 49 comments

Tony on March 28, 2016 at 7:26 am

I was fortunate enough to live across the street while the theater was still in operation in 1999 with it’s unique look. After moving out and returned for a drive through the old neighborhood, I cried.

Astyanax on October 24, 2015 at 5:46 am

Years back, my kids went to a dance studio on the block. Never went in, and by then it was already a triplex. Was it privately owned or ever under one of the chains such s Randforce?

Chris1982 on October 23, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Was there ever a Canarsie Theatre on Rockaway Ave?

johndereszewski on December 15, 2013 at 8:37 am

Mike, your fond memories got me to think of the time I overstayed my visit to the old Greenpoint RKO and had to be rudely picked up by my father at about 10:30 PM. I was about 10 at the time. The picture that captured my attention was Disney’s “The Swiss Family Robinson”.

While I was not officially grounded, it was quite a while before my parents let me visit a movie house alone.

mikepiper54 on December 13, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I was 8 years old when we moved to Canarsie in 1962, and lived on E. 92nd St. just off Ave L. I remember my first time at the Canarsie Theater fondly. It was a Saturday, and my Mom sent my brother and I to the matinee for the afternoon. A Frank Sinatra rat-pack western and another western were playing. My brother and I liked it so much that we just stayed in the theater, watching the same two flicks over and over again, and didn’t leave until about 9:00 that night. Needless to say, Mom and Dad were highly pissed. We paid the price, and were grounded for a long time. I had many a good time at that old hall over the years, and miss it’s old-time grandness dearly. I guess it’s kiss of death was when it went multiplex.

Pwf1930 on January 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I was born in canarsie and my earliest recollection was the picture Gone With the Wind in 1939 when i was 9 years old.My mom had taken me and i was thrilled to see a movie in color.I think every kid waited for Saturday to go to the Canarsie theater and see two pictures,news of the day,cartoons,and mostly for the chapter,which ran for ten or more episodes.Each week it would pick up where it left off.God forbid you missed a week!As some of the people stated here the price was cheap,and i remember paying a dime to get in.If you were lucky and had an extra nickle get a candy bar or a drink.Times were bad in the early 40’s and the dime was hard to come by.Many times i took flyers for upcoming movies and delivered them to homes in the neighbor hood mail boxes for the manager of the canarsie theater,and received two free tickets. As kids growing up in canarsie that was our pride and joy,the Canarsie theater.Wasn’t much else we had. I still have fond memories of Canarsie,and that Movie theater.Broke my heart to hear its gone.

Lenox on April 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I drove on Ave L about 6 months ago and stopped at Originals for pizza .

GaryCohen on October 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I drove through my old area of Canarsie yesterday. I made sure to drive down Avenue L, a street that I walked on many, many times. The entire building housing the Canarsie theater, including he luncheonette that used to be next door, was painted a wierd-looking pink color. The marquee was still up. However this was painted too. No longer were the letters there showing the last films playing (Lord of the Rings and Cheaper by the Dozen.) When a neighborhood goes downhill, the local theaters are always some of the first things to go. Its always very sad.

RayHarp on March 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm



Bway on March 10, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Thanks Ray for that great story!

Unfortunately, I think it’s too late for the Canarsie theater, at least the interior, it has been gutted inside (see April, 2009 Message with photo link above). Hopefully they can at least preserve the exterior.

RayHarp on March 4, 2010 at 1:01 pm


As per my previous message, I just established an E-MAIL ADDRESS:

Everyone interested, please send me a message…

Hopefully, there will be a lot of interest in this.

I look forward to hearing from HUNDREDS of you…

Or, at least, DOZENS ! Thanks, RayH

RayHarp on March 4, 2010 at 12:33 pm

ANYONE INTERESTED IN TRYING TO SAVE THE CANARSIE THEATER, or maybe even try to find someone to restore it, renovate it, or convert it to a live theater/playhouse/music hall, let’s try to form some kind of grass-roots organization. I’m in California now, but I’m willing to work on-line and by telephone to try to organize such an effort.
We may start by trying to get the CANARSIE THEATER designated as a National or State or City of New York Historic Site. That would at least give time to work and save it from possible demolition. INTERESTED PERSONS may send an E-MAIL to me, RayH, at a new E-Mail address I am going to create and post in the next message in a few minutes.

TPH on March 4, 2010 at 9:38 am

Although I never got to go to this theatre up through the late 1990’s I was frequently in the neighborhood and got a sense as to the special role that the treatre played along the commercial strip on Avenue L. It’s a pity that area residents have to travel and contend with the crowds at Kings Plaza and the UA Sheepshead Bay, making a trip to the movies more of an ordeal than a recreational activity.

RayHarp on March 3, 2010 at 11:39 pm


That 1959 photograph of the CANARSIE THEATER that’s all over the internet was taken on SATURDAY, JUNE 20TH, 1959 …

I know this, because I AM IN THE PICTURE.
I am (was) the boy standing in the line in front of the theater, directly under the word “MAN” in the movie title on the left side of the marquee. Standing on my right is my little sister, holding her bag of goodies. I have several copies of this photo.

There’s even a colorized version of this photo on the front cover of a recently published book about Canarsie. In that photo they made my jacket brown. They could have at least got it right… it was a blue denim Levi’s jacket !!

The picture was taken by a man named Mel (or Mal) who was with my Uncle Jimmy, who worked with him. They stood across the street on Avenue L, in front of ZIRKIN’S Kosher Butcher Shop.

We were NOT waiting to see AVA GARDNER naked. Actually, Ava Gardner did NOT appear naked in that movie… only her PORTRAIT, (Goya’s painting, “The Naked Maja”) appeared naked.

We WERE waiting to see THIS KIDDIE MATINEE, double feature movie:

“FRANCES IN THE NAVY”, starring Frances The Talking Mule, with Donald O'Connor, and a VERY YOUNG CLINT EASTWOOD !! —and—

“TAZA, SON OF COCHISE”, with ROCK HUDSON as an Apache Warrior !

PLUS, (five?) (ten?) Cartoons.

The following week, I was there with my two brothers, to see another double feature, ‘THE ROBE", and “DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS” two Biblical epics; But WE were there for all THOSE GREAT SWORD FIGHTS !!

That Canarsie Theater was a second home to me in the 1950’s …
That’s when it was in it’s prime, and the center of the community.

IT’S SOOOOOO SAD to see it dilapidated and abandoned.

Maybe somebody with megabucks can restore it as a live theater?

Canarsie is not too far gone for that to be a possiblity… RIGHT??


GaryCohen on December 7, 2009 at 4:17 pm

I lived in Canarsie from 1968 to 1999. My family fled there from East New York. I was in this theater many, many times. Among the many films I saw there were John Wayne in “The War Wagon” and “El Dorado,” “Airport,” Vincent Price’s 2 “Dr Phibes” films, Tim Burton’s “Batman” and many others. It never was much to look at. The theater was a fairly decent size until they cut it into three. The middle theater was still fairly large. However the theaters on the right and left were tiny. There were always numerous broken seats (sometimes entire rows) and the floors were always sticky.
This theater was a good theater to go to when the other more modern theaters were crowded and you couldn’t get in. This theater was never crowded on weeknights and only crowded on weekends when something big was playing. I remember when “Terminator 2-Judgement Day” first opened and you couldn’t get in anywhere else, I got into the Canarsie with no problem. Still this was not the theater to see any special effects extravaganza with Dolby sound, the screen was average size and the sound-system mediocre.
It was a nice, local family-oriented theater. When a new Disney film would open each holiday season, you could take your child there and be sure to run into other parents and their children who attended the same school or daycare as your child. I took my older son to see rereleases of “Bambi” and “Cinderella” at the Canarsie, also 2 of the Ninja Turtle films and “The Land Before Time.” The last time I remember being at the Canarsie was a cold, wet Saturday night during the Christmas season 1992 when I took my wife, son and sister to see “Home Alone 2-Lost in New York.” The theater was very crowded that evening and it is a nice, final memory I have of it.
Now, as others have stated, Canarsie is decimated like East New York where I spent the first 18 years of my life. The Canarsie theater is closed like the two local theaters I grew up with in East New York, the Biltmore and the Kinema. I live in Staten Island now and,
every so often, I pass through Canarsie on the way to visit my mother in Queens. The last time I drove down Ave. L, the Canarsie theater was closed and “Lord of the Rings” was still listed as playing on the marquee. Seemed kind of sad.

Bway on May 4, 2009 at 9:33 am

Thanks for the links Warren. What a shame it was gutted.

billmetz on February 27, 2007 at 11:39 am

i remember the canarsie shuttle from rockaway blvd bmt station to the pier in the early 1940s …seems that the area then was mostle italian american ..i remember the fig trees and some families had goats!sorry i did not go to the canarsie theatre …we had too many picture “palaces” in ridgewood where i lived from 1928 to 1959 my favorite was the eagle on central avenue …three features plus .we spent abt 5 hours in that plae time to return home for supper

sasheegm on February 26, 2007 at 5:15 am

Good to hear from you BWAY——Yes I know, and its a shame that we can only describe these wonderful show-places to our Kids & Grandkids——-at least my eldest daughter saw Radio City Music Hall when she was about 10 years old——-Take care——-Joe From Florida

Bway on February 26, 2007 at 4:23 am

Joe, don’t feel bad, it’s not just Bushwick and Canarsie that lost their theaters, it’s a national trend. Most people everywhere lost their theaters…..even in the best of neighborhoods.

sasheegm on February 26, 2007 at 3:21 am

I appeared at the Canarsie Theater in 1958 in a Rock N Roll show with many other groups of the day, while I was appearing at the China Lantern Night Club with a New Comedian named Pat Cooper——-I grew up in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn and Canarsie was the place everyone wanted to live in back then——-I remember taking the open air trolley to the pier to go fishing or crabbing, and watching the deep sea fishing boats coming back to the dock——-Like my old neighborhood of Bushwick, I guess Canarsie followed in the same direction, as all of the old Movie Houses are gone; but I will always remember the day i was on stage at the Canarsie with a few hundred screaming kids in the audience—Joe From Florida

brokelyn on February 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm

What happened to the canarsie movie theater represents what happened to the whole neighborhood in general. Ave L looks like a bomb hit it. I grew up in Canarsie in the early 70’s and Ave L was very clean and bustling then, now it looks like skid row. Why is it when the neighborhood went from white to black it turned into a slum? I went to the theater every Saturday for the whole day, where they would show cartoons and shorts first before the film, where you would walk out and cover your eyes cause you where sitting in the dark all day. Tina and Heather were the ticket women selling the tickets and Sol was the old man usher and Gerard was the manager. The theater was always kept clean and everyone was nice. There was a candy store on the corner right next to the theater as well. Why when time passes does everything have to be destroyed and become worse. I used to love walking down Ave L and now you wouldn’t catch me dead walking down there without fearing for my life. Canarsie is a slum now and that is only because of the people that made it a slum and unsafe.
My Mom lived in Canarsie for 35 years and was robbed twice only within the last 4 years and we had to move her out of there for fear of her life. Not the Canarsie I remember, it is a disgrace now and the people living there should be ashamed of themselves for what they have done to a once beautiful neighborhood, you turned my neighborhood into a slum.

Bway on June 15, 2006 at 5:20 am

What’s the latest on the Cararsie? Was it gutted?
Anyway, here’s the building in an aerial view. Did it have a balcony? It doesn’t appear that big from the air.
Anyone know of any interior photos, either historical or current?

View link

EcRocker on February 12, 2006 at 3:39 pm

Here is another local venue going by the wayside. Right down the street was the Canarsie India Palcae. I would take my gf at the time there for a great Indian dinner and then walk right over to the Canarsie. I used to call it the Ave L theatre. Call it a cheap date but at least once I found the place to park my car I didn’t have to look for another one to see the movie.

RonTownson on February 9, 2006 at 4:43 pm

Fourteen Cents! That is what it cost me at a matinee on the day of the Big Blizzard in December of 1947! Had to walk back to the Projects at the bottom of Remsen Avenue. The snow was two feet already (drifts). I was 9 years old. We used to see a few cartoons, a 15 minute serial of which Dick Tracy was my favorite (had to come back the following week to see how Dick Tracy managed to save Tess from a “sure death”)!
and a double feature! All out of a quarter allowance, I was able to buy two candy bars (Bonanza Taffy and Good and Plenty).
Moved out to Hicksville (with six brothers, Mom and Dad) in 1950, but I made several trips back when I was 10 and 11 to hopefully see one of my old girlfriends; Jannet Rockerfeller, Chloe Hennessy, Josephine Engrasier or Beatrice Folley. I’m surprised I remembered their names after 55 years. Canarsie had a real impac on me, for sure. The Pier, “Bare Ass Creek” (Padegett Basin), P.S. 115! The Stables, and what was left of Golden Park, which Mom and Dad used to visit in the 30’s.
Last time in Canarsie was the June of ‘85. I took a picture of the Canarsie Theater Marque: 1. “A View To Kill”, 2. “Rambo”, and 3. “Perfect”. There are five guys hanging out on the corner in front of the candy store.
Feel free to contact me for more info, anytime:
I live in Clearwater, Florida now, which seems to be populated with half of Brooklyn. Well, the guys I know, anyway.
I really enjoyed this site and will come back often. Thanks

br91975 on October 24, 2005 at 10:47 am

According to the June 30, 2005 Canarsie Courier article posted below (, the Canarsie Theater and the other properties within the bulding which houses it may become the new home of the Word Aflame Community Church…

Plans Set To Convert Canarsie Theater Into A Church

By Charles Rogers

If negotiations taking place within the next few weeks go as planned, the Canarsie Theater, with an exterior that has been in a rotting state for more than a year and a half â€" will be turned into a church by next spring.

Rev. Rudolph Mitchell, spiritual leader of the Word Aflame Community Church, at 9530 Avenue L, who recently met with contractors and principles, told the Canarsie Courier that a purchase â€" “in the $1 million range” â€" is currently in the works.

“We looked at renditions and blueprints for the building, including the group of stores that had been associated, and showed some of them to our congregation at last Sunday’s services,” said Rev. Mitchell, “and they were not only very receptive, but they were blown away!

“During our meetings with the other principles, many other facets of what the building would house came up,” he said. “For instance, the store that was on the corner of East 93rd Street will be utilized as a Community Resource Center, where there would be social services provided, including administration of after school programs, youth activities and perhaps a day camp facility.”

The first phase of the construction, which would be completed by March, 2006, will include complete renovation of the front and side of the building. Within that phase, offices, a community day care and learning center and a sanctuary to seat 800 people will be constructed. A book store and community resource center will be completed by November, 2006. Other amenities will eventually be added, such as a banquet hall and conference rooms.

Rev. Mitchell said his wife, Dion, an assistant principal at Bushwick High School, is handling all the aspects of the learning center, including setting up the curriculum.

He said the Word Aflame Church is an Apostolic church and that the physical property of the church itself would be “medium-sized.”

“We have the support of a bank that has given us tentative loan approval pending a few minor negotiations and we are asking our parishioners and others to offer their support,” he added. “We are extremely excited about the project.”

While not an official landmark, the Canarsie Theater was once the center of community social life here. In recent years, however, it fell victim to a poor economy and falling patronage. The last feature movie, as emblazoned on its decaying marquee, was a remake of “Cheaper By The Dozen,” starring Steve Martin, which played there in December, 2003.