People's Cinema

781 Saratoga Avenue,
Brownsville,
Brooklyn, NY 11212

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People's Cinema

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Located on the southwest corner of Saratoga Avenue & Livonia Avenue, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. The Bluebird Theatre was opened in January 1931. In 1935, it was converted into a synagogue, but reopened on January 29, 1937 as the People’s Theatre. In the 1930’s a movie executive made the observation that if producers wanted to send a message they should use Western Union. This was prompted by a trend of movies with a social message.

In the New York City area a few theaters specialized in movies with a left wing “progressive” slant. Some were made in Soviet Russia. The most notable one was located in Manhattan near Union Square where Soviet newsreels as well as pictures by Sergi Eisenstein could be seen.

In the Brownsville section of Brooklyn there was the People’s Cinema. It was located at Saratoga and Livonia Avenues. The people in the neighborhood tended to vote for more radical candidates in elections and so it would seem that this type of program was some what popular locally. It was definitely not a big draw in other areas of Brooklyn.

It closed in 1954, and in October 1954 was sold and converted into a Food King Supermarket. In 2011, a Fine Fare supermarket operates on the site.

Contributed by J.F. Lundy

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

muray
muray on May 31, 2005 at 5:07 pm

The Peoples Cinema (formerly the “Blue Bird”) was diagonally across the street from The Ambassador, which is unusual for two movie houses to be that close to one another. As the Peoples Cinema it showed Russian made films produced by Artkino, to appeal to the leftest movie goers. I remember seeing an Palestinian movie dealing with fighting between Arabs and Jews, which was filmed in the 1930’s low budget and western films were shown later on until it’s demise. The seating capacity was very small, and hardly competed with the Ambassador.

creativa
creativa on December 23, 2005 at 11:52 am

The radical cinema near Union Square was called The Irving Theater – it was on Irving Place – showed Russian flicks, but also European films like The Last Waltz with Louise Rainer – I used to pass it every weekend during the years I attended Yiddish High School ( mitlshul) held at Washington Irving High School.

Sylvia Schildt

hdl37
hdl37 on March 21, 2006 at 7:33 am

I spent many Sat afternoons at peoples cinema. 2-movies + a western+15 cartoons+achapter+newsreel+ stale candy bars + a mean matron that had a limp or a problem with her arm, she carried a flashlight and we drove her crazy.
I lived on Strauss St at Sutter ave

1937-1958

Herbie

Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 21, 2006 at 11:20 am

Herbie, this bit you wrote about the matron is amazing, because we had a similar mean matron with a limp and a flashlight and whom we drove crazy. It was the Johnston Theatre in Johnston, RI, and I wrote about her two years ago in the first post on this page.

hdl37
hdl37 on March 21, 2006 at 11:33 am

I live in NJ, about 45 miles from Brownsville. My Wife was a teacher

at PS268 Clarkson and E.53 st from 1987-2002

I still use a dentist on Ralph ave and Glenwood Rd

I never go to Brownsville, now Ocean Hill Brownsville.

But when I enter Brooklyn I feel I have returned home.

BUT it has changed for the very worse.

Theaterat
Theaterat on December 12, 2007 at 6:16 pm

RE Peoples Cinema. My English professor grew vup in this neighborhood.His parents were socialists who supported “Uncle Joe” in the 1930s and became full fledged communists after WWII.He had some memories of his parents saying that they used to see Soviet made films there in the 30s and early 40s.By the time he was about 9 or 10 in the late 40s, the theater changed its policy and started to show more mainstream Hollywood and foreign films. He said this neighborhood had many Jewish intelluctials and Bohemian types and others who supported leftist activities. He says the theater went mainstream probably due to the fear of the then current “red scare' that came right after WWII.He also remembered pro Julius and Ethel Rosenberg demonstrations that were held here after they were convicted of giving the Soviets infomation on the nuclear bomb in the early 50s.

jflundy
jflundy on January 17, 2008 at 10:21 am

/theaters/11996/ links to the CT page of the Irving Place Theater which Sylvia Schildt identifies as the theater near Union Square where Soviet and other radical films were screened at times in the 1930’s and 40’s. Lost Memory links to an excellent NYPL photo of the theater taken 1n 1938 on that page.

jflundy
jflundy on July 28, 2009 at 5:40 pm

View link

This photo link to Brooklyn Pix shows the People’s Cinema some sixty years ago, courtesy of Warren.

jflundy
jflundy on August 2, 2009 at 10:02 am

On September 23, 1937, “The Golem”, in Yiddish with English sub- titles and starring Harry Baur was playing its last day at the People’s Cinema. In the Bronx, it was playing out its last week at the Ascot at 183rd on the Concourse.

Willburg145
Willburg145 on October 5, 2012 at 1:46 pm

What is the elevated train line?

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