Peerless Theater

433 Myrtle Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11205

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Gerry_R on August 11, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Ahhh – the Peerless Theater.

It had as much influence, if not more – than other parts of my early life. Ages 5 through 8 or 9. I lived on Waverly Ave, number 119 …. Third floor. I was allowed, encouraged, to go to the movies nearly every Saturday, and almost always went alone. This started at age 6. It was only around the corner … The world was thought to be a safer place then, so, my mother used the movies to get me out of the house in order to get on with her house-cleaning.

At the time I went there, It cost 35 cents for a child to get in … adults were 50 cents !

In those years, there was no movie rating system. So I got to see movies that were never meant for a 6 year old. Often saw 2 movies, plus a coming attraction or two, and usually 2 cartoons. The day of the weekly serial was already passed, didn’t take part in that phase of entertainment. I saw “ The Monster of Piedras Blancas ” on my first solo outing. A very scary movie for a little kid. I remember being terrified when I got home and I ran …. No, I flew ! – up the two flights of stairs, through the dark hallways, to get to our 3rd floor apartment ! I also saw things like Psycho …. The Tingler ….. Journey to The Center of The Earth …… Escapade in Japan….. A variety of Westerns and Monster Movies, with the occasional Sci-Fi flick thrown in. The Ten Commandments …… Old Yeller … My Mom’s favorite, The Nun’s Story …. The Shaggy Dog too. Anything and everything. I usually just went to the movies, and whatever happened to be playing, whether I understood the story or not – there I was !

One promotion the theater ran, as I remember : every Friday night, they offered a set of dinnerware, piece-by-piece, super cheap. In order to get the whole set, you had to go every week. One week might be the cups, the next week, the saucers, the following week soup bowls … you get the idea. My folks got a fair number of those dishes as I recall – they were a green-and-white streaky print design, and somewhat heavy too. Cheap China. ( Lots of businesses gave things away like that, especially gas stations; they were know for giving items out drinking glasses. I remember we had accumulated set of glasses with illustrations of long forgotten, antique 1910- 1920 cars, like . )

We went to the movies many Friday nights – because the place was air-conditioned. Our apartment was an oven,and you did anything you could to get away from there during the dog-days of summer.

I liked that the theater had 2 candy counters, one being inside the theater at the bottom of the screen, so you wouldn’t miss any of the movie. The one in the lobby had the better candy selection. Of course they had a matron working the theater too, a elderly lady wearing a uniform, and going around with a flashlight, helping you find your seat …. And keeping the little devils in line.

I remember being on a first name basis with the ticket lady in the lobby. One Saturday, I had a rash, some sort of an allergic reaction. She allowed me to leave the theater, run home, put some lotion on the itch, come back to the movies and she was fine with it all. That would never happen today… No hassles – I was just a neighborhood kid from around the corner.

In the summer of 1961, we moved to the Midwood section of Brooklyn, and I went to both the Midwood Theater and the Kent Theater. But that’s a different story, for another time.

rewriteman on February 6, 2017 at 2:39 am

What a wonderful surprise, stumbling across memories more than six decades old. Thanks, everyone, for contributing details about our beloved ”Itch.” We lived on Washington Avenue, just a few doors off Myrtle from the early 40s till June 52 when the family moved to Long Island. From the mid-40s to very early 50s, my sister, Ginny, and I along with probably a half dozen of our friends, routinely spent Saturday afternoons in the sometimes raucous but always comfortable and familiar Peerless. I passed the theater, in shadow beneath the el, every weekday as I made my way to class at Sacred Heart (would anyone today allow a first- or second-grader to walk that far unattended?) But come Saturdays, clutching my quarter allowance, I headed for the Peerless with my crowd. For 12 cents, we got at a minimum two feature films, a cartoon and, most importantly, a serial (or “chapter,” as we called those black-and-white, episodic stories of Nyoka, Rocketman, G-Men [who] Never Forget, Superman and our other matinee heroes). On the best Saturdays, the top feature was a comedy like the Bowery Boys or Abbot and Costello while the undercard, the “second”—and in we boys’ estimation, the better—film was most often a western, war flick or other shoot-em-up. We got more than movies. The 20-foot-wide lobby had great posters and photo stills, most of them advertising the week’s upcoming features (any film, the way I remember it, stayed in the theater no more than a couple of days). The first poster frame on the left, my favorite spot, was a vertical rectangle reserved for the current serial, so it sat there for at least 12 or 13 weeks and most often 15. At our ages, those months were a lifetime before the new artwork went up. For no practical reason, I liked to pick up a copy of the Peerless program for the upcoming week when I found them stacked at the ticket booth. It was a small (maybe 4 x 6) flyer, of marginal print quality and it came in a variety of colors: black one week, purple another). It included artwork and display type that promoted the upcoming, albeit brief, appearance of films. For me, the back page was the focus of my interest since it highlighted the Peerless’ Saturday matinee. The program’s front must have featured Sunday, maybe Monday (two films). Inside, double features were scheduled for Tuesday-Wednesday and Thursday-Friday (again, this is 60-plus years of reconstruction; corrections welcome!) As others have noted, the snack stand was located under the screen, at the foot of the right aisle. A small bag of potato chips cost, I think, a nickel, but they came with something other theaters didn’t provide: the matron added a small but strategic tear somewhere in the center of the bag. That kept young snackers from inflating their empty bag and punching it to achieve a loud bang. Just past the screen and refreshment stand were the double exit-only steel doors that opened onto to Waverly Avenue. Kids who left early armed themselves with rocks then directed noisy but brief fusillades against the metal. The memories still burn bright with me, and I’m glad to see they do as well with so many others. That was some neighborhood that we all called home!

Fixer3 on October 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Burton Diamond. I remember your mother, and her sister “Rose”….They had a small clothing store on the corner of Waverly & Myrtle…. They were my father’s landladies. I moved Lily from Myrtle Avenue to an apartment on (I think) Ocean Avenue…. She had a brother who lived in Yonkers…on a huge hill… I think that he was a dentist…..I still own the building that was Tony The Tailor…. I am Tony’s son. Where do you live?

Dancapp on October 17, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I recently ran across an old map that had the Peerless site as a vaudeville Theatre… Does anyone know of the original owners or have posters (or what it was called) of the opening?

BHD4_ on July 14, 2015 at 8:49 pm

I see you folks remember the Peerless. Abraham Cohen emigrated from Krakow, Poland in the later part of the 1800s and married Ida Cohen in Brooklyn also from Krakow. They had three Daughters, Ruth, Gladys and Lillian and Lillian was my Mother. Abe was my Grandfather and he was the owner of the Peerless Theater and the most generous and kind man I ever knew. We lived at 210 Clinton Avenue in the Clinton Arms apartment with my parents Sam and Lil and my brother Robert. In 1954 we moved to Rockville Centre, Long Island where I live with my wife today and brought up our two kids. Yes the candy stand was under the screen on the right side. The ticket window was down the narrow lobby on the right side and there was a big fan on the right wall to cool off the theater you may remember. I was a little boy and when I went there I was treated like a king, free candy etc. Unfortunately my Grandfather closed the Theater in the early to mid 60s because he was robbed multiple times and beaten up a few times in his own place of business.

My wife and I went back there a few years ago and yes it’s a church. We went in sat down and heard the Sermon the Minister was giving. I told them my Grandfather owned the building and the Theater. They were very welcoming. The framed areas where the movie posters were still there painted over with Messages and Religious things tacked to them. The place did not look very well cared for.

I sat there thinking about my life and how I got from there to then. Burton Diamond

lindie5150 on February 20, 2015 at 10:30 am

Wow, the Peerless – I grew up right around the corner at 153 Clinton Ave., went to Sacred Heart School, I remember Elkis Candy Store and Mr. and Mrs. Elkis wore weird shoes, we then moved up the street to 205 Clinton Ave. and after that to Flatbush. Anyone on here who lived in that neighborhood from 1954 to early 60’s? My name is Linda and my sister is Angela, practically our whole family lived on Clinton Ave., grandmother, great grandmother. This brings back many fond memories even though I was very young. Going to the Peerless was a big treat for us lol. Loved Brooklyn back then.

Bway on July 21, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Judging by the street view, it appears the Peerless Theater is now being used as a Church. Anyone have any idea what remains inside of the theater if anything?

Dancapp on July 20, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Great hearing from all the old Clinton Hiller’s… The Peerless was the place to be on Saturday mornings, cartoons (in color), free give aways (if you brought your baby brother) and ice cream rolls. Lived at 174 and 196 (1954-1975) the Peerless gave the neighborhood its unique character and a great place to grow up!

afm20 on October 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm

I also found the site by accident—I lived on Taaffe Pl as a kid,my father owned a small candy store there,went to ps 157,just down the street.Does anyone remember Tony’s Pizzeria on Myrtle Ave?,owned by Tony Creasia,a very close friend of my fathers—-left Brooklyn in 1947,moved to Ma.—hated it there,small town and got into many fights,made a shoe shine box,and got laughed at,they didn’t do things like that in the country—my mother sent me for chopped meat,and got laughed at again,they call it hamburg out here—anyway just a little note,to tell you,that you really can’t take the city,out of a country boy—Tony

ezridr1 on August 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I also found this site by accident. Great website. Thanks for creating it. My Uncle owned the Daniels Candy Store on Myrtle Ave on the corner of Waverly. My cousin and family lived above the Candy store and I spent many a Saturday form 1948 to 1954, with my cousin at the Peerless, watching cartoons, serials like Flash Gordon and Don Winslow of the Navy ,plus a movie. We then would walk 10 yards to the corner and have a Lime Rickey or an Egg Cream at my Uncle’s Candy Store. We also played handball and “Heels” against the wall, which had a giant Shinola sign painted on the wall.

taiello38 on June 30, 2010 at 11:34 am

LIVED AT 139 CLINTON AVE FROM 1940-1952…UL 2 0721..

Bway on March 10, 2010 at 6:34 pm

Anyone know of any current photos of the interior?

Anyway, here’s a corrected link for the photo above, the link changed:

View link

Fixer3 on November 12, 2009 at 6:10 pm

ALL of the interior remains!

Bway on May 26, 2009 at 11:36 am

I would assume as a church, much of it’s interior remains?

Fixer3 on February 9, 2009 at 9:16 am

The first telephone number that I ever memorized was ULster 5-4826; Tony The Tailor; 437 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn 5, New York.That number was good from 1956 until December 31, 2002. Two doors East of the Peerless Theater. The theater is owned and operated by the “Reverend Lee”….and it’s just like new inside.

BrooklynJim on November 28, 2008 at 9:34 am

Thx for that interesting item of trivia, ken, although I believe it was upgraded in the late 1940s. I’ll try to check further on that. My home exchange a block away in 1946 was Main, and my cousin’s (who lived several blocks away on Cumberland) was Sterling. Ulster was another common to the Clinton Hill area.

kencmcintyre on November 26, 2008 at 9:52 pm

Telephone number for the Peerless in 1940 was CUmbrlnd 6-2390.

BrooklynJim on December 10, 2007 at 8:34 pm

Very LARGE thx (as WABC DJ Big Dan Ingram used to say) to Fixer3 & Bway for posting those photo links to the Peerless Theater! With only two days away from being back in the borough for the holidays, those pix took me back many years. Wow!

Bway on December 10, 2007 at 10:09 am

Here is a photo of the old Peerless Theater taken in 1969, when from the old Myrtle Ave el. The theater IS in fact the same building as Ken Roe photographed in 2005, with links above…. It’s a spectacular photo of the old building, the old marquee abandoned, but still there….

View link

aa022467 on December 2, 2007 at 9:01 am

Thanks, John C.
This brings back fond memories of, not only the theatre, but of my grandfather, who owned it and my early days in Bklyn. I’ll be sure to show this picture to my 92 year old mother and see if she can remember it.
Many thanks for the memories.

Fixer3 on December 2, 2007 at 8:39 am

Small problem: The late 1960’s photo of the Peerless (refered to in my previous post) did not come through as a link, so here it is:

View link

John C ().

Fixer3 on December 2, 2007 at 8:26 am

BROOKLYN, NY â€" My fatherâ€\s drycleaner/tailor shop was at 437 Myrtle and as a kid hanging out at dadâ€\s store, I would be given 75 cents to get out of his hair for a couple of hours at the Peerless Theater two doors down.

The building and the interior are today exactly as they were in the early 1960â€\s when the theater was open for business. Today the interior is even better than it was then because everything is well painted and maintained. The marquee was taken down in the late sixties as I recall, and the front doors were replaced at that time.

The people who lived upstairs had no sound problem because the seats and the screen were actually in a separate building that was 75â€\ down a 20 foot wide entranceway that also housed the ticket booth (on the right side). This area immediately behind the front doors was ostensibly for holding the throngs waiting for the next “sell out show.”

After you walked down the corridor, which is the same length and width as the stores to the right of the movie, you entered the theater proper at the last row of seats with the screen to your right. The wall at the back of the screen is actually on Waverly Avenue. The rear emergency exits lead to a courtyard that is behind Jive Turkey, 3 Stars Laundromat, Yes Cleaners and “Dooâ€\s” barber shop. There is a fire escape from some upper area by the screen that leads down to the courtyard but I wouldnâ€\t think that it could hold two pigeons at the same time these days.

The candy counter was under the screen so that management could save on a matron who, by law, had to be present whenever school was not in session in order to mind the kids. With the candy counter under the screen, the matron could do double duty as candy salesman and matron while remaining in compliance.

The place was never air conditioned but was instead cooled by two enormous, 5-speed electric fans. When the theater closed, my father bought them both and they cooled Tony The Tailor Drycleaners until 2002 when he closed the doors. They were discarded during the subsequent renovation by the present tenant.

There are two windows on the right wall (facing the screen) that were shaded but open during the summer. They were too high to see in from the hidden courtyard, but I could always HEAR the movie while standing in the shade of my fatherâ€\s gigantic fig trees that were planted against that wall.

Those fig trees had to be the biggest fig trees in the state. The courtyard was closed in on all four sides and was heated, year-round by the window mounted exhaust fans from the laundromat and the drycleaner. They must have thought that they were in the Mediterranean because they extended so high that we couldnâ€\t reach the topmost fruit with the Peerlessâ€\ marquee ladder that we also “acquired” when they closed the doors!

So itâ€\s all still there…and better than ever. If you stand in the courtyard on weekends, you can be treated to the sound of a full gospel choir!

Thereâ€\s a short angle photo of the Peerlessâ€\ marquee available on line. The photo was taken from the north side of Myrtle Avenue facing east from the middle of Clinton Ave. with the old Myrtle Avenue El coming toward the camera on its way to “Bridge & Jay”. I see a 1968 or 1969 Buick parked at the curb. The el came down in 1971, so that should give you an approximate date. The photo is located online. Thatâ€\s the Peerlessâ€\ marquee just to the right of the sign that says “CIGARS”.

John C ().

BrooklynJim on May 27, 2007 at 1:02 pm

210 was right across the alley from me at 196. You had 13-14 stories, with speedy elevators, but our much older building had only 5, all with staircases. Somewhere in my family photos, I have one that was taken on Mother’s Day, 1947. It showed the brand new Clinton Hill Apartments directly across the street: all the windows had big white X’s on them.

‘53-'54 were the years we kids atarted attending the Peerless in earnest. There was a candy store on the corner of Clinton & Myrtle, but the guy was a total grouch. We never bought much of anything there, as there was a much friendlier store at the Vanderbilt Ave. station. There might have been a radio & TV repair shop next door, and then Louie’s Barber Shop adjoining the Peerless at 433 Myrtle.

You mentioned the projectionist’s ladder on the far (wall) side, exactly as I’d remembered it. Can’t recall any other theater of that era having no balcony and a ladder up to the booth. Smokers got the last three rows or so – center, left and right.

In a novel I’ve just completed, I “borrowed” a description of the art deco green, orange and yellow sconces mounted on the walls near the blade fans for summer use. Always reminded me of a cool sherbet.

The screen was postage-stamp size until 1954. CinemaScope had been available to major theaters for a year or so when the Peerless closed for a time for renovations. The new screen did not appear wide enough to fit the CinemaScope category, but it was considerably larger than the one it replaced. I think this occurred soon after the screening of “Them!” (To this day I still check the horizon if I hear a car’s squeaky fan belt a block or two away.)

Glad you’re aboard, BobD, and I encourage you in your efforts to get other family members to sign up for and to enjoy this great CT website! Thx!

aa022467 on May 27, 2007 at 5:44 am

Brooklyn Jim, did you live in the heighborhood and, if so, where. I lived in 210 Clinton Avenue a floor above my grandparents. Since I move from there in 1954, at the age of 8, I do not have that many memories as to what stores where on the same street. My basic memories are of the movie theater itself. At that young age, it seemed enormous. It was like a family in the theater…everybody treating each other as family members.
I’ll try and get other family members to join in the memoriesa of the Peerless.

BrooklynJim on May 26, 2007 at 8:52 am

Welcome, BobD! Finally a “Peerless” relative has surfaced!

This neighborhood theater, as you know, was for years an inexpensive but major staple of entertainment for hard-working middle class folks who lived anywhere from the vicinity of the Brooklyn Navy Yard right up through the range of Clinton Hill Apartments (to Greene Ave.), Pratt Institute and Fort Greene Park itself. Unfortunately, many of the old residents, including some I grew up with, are no longer with us. The Peerless page, therefore, fails to generate the massive response as found for such other popular theaters as the Ridgewood, RKO Madison, Radio City Music Hall, etc.

If you go back about a month or so of news entries on CT’s home page, you’ll find one entitled “Peerless Memories” from John C., whose relatives owned the tailor shop next store.

And thanks for sharing your memories with all of us CTers! Hope to read more of your recollections in the near future!