Willoughby Theater

260 Knickerbocker Avenue,
Bushwick,
Brooklyn, NY 11237

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Showing 19 comments

robboehm
robboehm on April 20, 2014 at 7:19 pm

Contrary to the Starr where the top appears to have been lopped off for later use, the Willoughby added a story or two.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 19, 2014 at 6:24 pm

I have no idea when that photo was taken, John. I wish that the photo was larger with more detail but it still gives you an idea of what the Willoughby looked like with a marquee. The Willoughby wasn’t located too far from the Starr Theater. You might not have seen it yet, but I also uploaded a photo to the Starr Theater page.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

Just to a look at the Brooklyn Theatre Index and came up with a couple of items. First, while Eric Holmgren did perform architectural work in both 1919 and 1932, an architect named F. C. Dexheimer also did work there in 1915, or about two years after the theater opened.

Second, the Index cites a 1951 – not a 1953 – closing date. It seems as if the place was idle between that date and the 1953 filing of the building permit to convert in into the dance and catering hall.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 19, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Thanks for the picture LM. Do you have any indication as to when it was taken? Unfortunately, the name of the movie being shown cannot be made out.

I guess the name “functional” comes to mind when viewing the photo. This was a VERY plain building. The church people, in fact, did a rather fine job in improving the facade when they took over the place.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 19, 2014 at 1:55 am

Check the photo section to see the Willoughby when it was still a theatre.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Bway, I should have put the word renovations in “quotes” when speaking of the Ridgewood – if only to indicate a sense of irony. I greatly fear that the results will not be good.

Since the old Willoughby served as a dance hall for at least a while before becoming a church – you could say it took the path from the profane to the pious – I suspect that not much of the old place is left. Never having been there, however, I cannot say this for sure.

Great hearing from you.

Bway
Bway on April 2, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I use the word “renovations” lightly when talking about what will happen too the old Ridgewood Theater. “Renovations”, would more be in keeping with “renovating what is there”, not destroying the theater’s features in the process, which would include interior “demolition” as opposed to “renovation”. I hope it’s a “renovation” as opposed to demolition inside the Ridgewood Theater. As for the Willoughby, does anyone know of any interior photos? Is there anything left of it’s theater days in the church?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 2, 2014 at 3:06 pm

One more point that I forgot to make: It appears that the new building’s architect is the same person who will perform the renovations at the old Ridgewood Theatre.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 2, 2014 at 2:35 pm

The Wyckoff Heights blog recently reported that a building permit has been submitted to construct a 10 story building on the old Willoughby’s site. It would continue a religious use on the first floor, with 53 residential units situated above that. My guess is that the current building will be demolished and then completely replaced by the new structure – though it is possible that a part of the old movie house might remain. (I hope the church is making out on this deal.)

The size of the building’s lot will enable a building of this size to be constructed in this relatively low density community.

Bway
Bway on April 20, 2009 at 4:10 pm

I just put a link to a street view in the Ridgewood Casino’s page. Do you feel that is the corner, the corner with the one story buildings?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 18, 2008 at 11:31 am

Warren, in looking for a “phantom” theater on Knickerbocker, I just thought you might wish to consider the Ridgewood Casino, which has a page on this site, albeit a lightly used one.

I say this because the Ridgewood Casino, which was situated at 381-3 Knickerbocker at the corner of Stanhope, would appear to fit the profile – small, 200-250 capacity house that did not outlive the 1910’s – of your “lost” movie house. Also, since the building currently situated on that site almost surely predates the 1910’s, the old place might not even have been demolished.

In any event, you – or anyone else – may wish to check out this page and provide your thoughts.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 1, 2008 at 8:05 pm

There might have been another theatre on Knickerbocker Avenue that hasn’t been listed at Cinema Treasures. In a 1932 trade journal, I found this memory of a decade or two before that: “There was one house on Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, which seated about 250. Every time there was a rain storm, the place would become flooded, and the customers were forced to sit on the backs of the chairs!”

billmetz
billmetz on March 1, 2007 at 12:12 am

saw trader horn at the willoughby they had barrels of pickles and herring at the rear of theatre whew!! what DUMP

Bway
Bway on June 6, 2006 at 5:35 pm

Here’s an aerial view of the former Willoughby Theater, now a church:

View link

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 30, 2005 at 12:01 am

Joe….The architects name was Eric not Guido. :) I got a second opinion and the name was most likely Eric O. Holmgren. The people that sign these documents write worse than I do.

sasheegm
sasheegm on August 29, 2005 at 10:31 pm

Wouldn’t have a clue Lostmemory——-Perhaps BWAY or Warren…..maybe Gerry, since all they showed were Italian films——at least from when I can remember, the late 40s through the early 50s…….I think the Italian movies that started to be shown for free, on WOR-Channel-9, in the early 50s, may have led to their closing, or at least a change in venue……Joe From Florida—P.S. I notified the staff that my e-mail will be changing by the end of the month——-hopefully they will change it, since I would like to receive the updates from all of you fellows

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on August 29, 2005 at 10:14 pm

I found a certificate of occupancy for this theater. On that document is the architects name which I am having a hard time reading. It appears to be Eric O. Holingren or something very similar to that. Is anyone familiar with that name? I can email you the document if you think you might be able to decipher the name.

sasheegm
sasheegm on April 21, 2005 at 12:34 am

Hello to everyone: I grew up on Willoughby Ave, in Brooklyn during the 40s and 50s……..When I lived there, the Willoughby Theater showed only Italian Cinema because its location was in an Italian neighbrhood……..It;s neighboring Theater was the Star Theater on Knickerbocker Ave between Willoughby Ave and Troutman St…….Iwent to the Willoughby on many occasions to see Italian Cinema with the Old Greats such as Gino Cervi, Amedeo Nazzarri, Alida Valli, Isa Miranda etc etc……….It was part of my childhood & now I have been a Classic film collector for over 40 years——First 16mm, then video, and now dvd…..My Family and I moved from the old neighborhood in 1959 and moved to Long Island….I have very fond memories of the neighborhood…as i grew older, I remember the Theater closing down…….I then would go into Manhattan to the Apollo Theater on 42nd St.(before the sleaze took over) to see European films including Italian……A few blocks from the Willoughby was the Wagner Theater on Wykoff Ave I beleive, which only showed German Cinema, since that area was predominantly German——These areas were known as the Bushwick/Ridgewood section of Brooklyn…..and we had many theaters all over the area….but that’s for another post…Ciao, Joe From Florida

Bway
Bway on September 23, 2004 at 5:03 pm

Here’s a current view of the Willoughby Theater taken yesterday.

Click Here for Link

The theater is now a church, Iglesia Bautista Central. The building appears to have been refaced, although is well cared for.