Alben Theatre

5406 Third Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11220

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Showing 17 comments

Miguel on March 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

Not only can you find cobblestones on First Avenue, you’ll also see the rails for the freight trains there, that took goods between the warehouses along First Avenue and the waterfront.

DJM78 on January 20, 2012 at 9:31 am

I’ve taken a second look at the photo at the top of this page. That’s a real deal cobblestone street. I like the photo that much more now. You can still find some of that classic cobblestone on First Avenue and a few other streets in Sunset Park.

Miguel on January 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Growing up I remember construction on the section that went towards to Verrazano Bridge. I remember the stores on the other side of Third Avenue disappearing.

Most of the business that lined Third Avenue at the time, mostly started to disappear from the area not because of the El so much, as because of the street gangs that popped up in the early 70s. I knew most of the owners on that block—having worked at 2 stores there growing up—and they decided they had enough with the gangs and either retired or moved to other locations. There is only one business that is still there from back then — that’s the grocery store on the corner of 55th Street.

DJM78 on January 14, 2012 at 11:40 am

Without question 3rd avenue being torn apart couldn’t have been good for business. From what I’m told and what I’ve read Robert Moses was very good at ripping a neighborhood in half.

johndereszewski on January 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

What a wonderful picture, Miguel. Thaks so much for posting it. …… Since “Parents on Trial” was released in 1939, this further confirms the date of the photo, which was taken as part of a comprehensive survey of all NYC properties conducted that year. (Incidently, a very young Noah Beery Tr. played a featured part in this movie during his pre-Rockford File days.)……. When the photo was taken, the el was in its last days of operation and would soon be replaced by the Gowannus Expressway. As I recall, the el’s superstructure was initially used to support the highway. This all changed in the late 50’s – early 60’s when the Gowannus was replaced and widened by the current structure as part of the project that brought us the Verrazano Bridge. At that time, the entire east side of that portion of 3rd Ave. was demolished to make way for the expansion. I suspect the extreme disruption caused by this project – and the loss of hundreds of nearby residential units – played a significant role in the Alben’s demise in 1962.

Miguel on January 13, 2012 at 7:16 am

Oops…that should be “workers” not “walkers”. Need coffee. Ha!

Miguel on January 13, 2012 at 7:16 am

According to the top of this page it had 450 seats. I just don’t remember it having that many. Think layout was center walk-in aisle with rows on either side and back to front aisles on the ends too.

If you walk around the corner on 54th Street you’ll see the back of the building next to the current apartment building on the corner (used to be a pizza joint there at one time). Back area there had a fire exit and was fenced in. Dumpsters were also back there for garbage.

I actually showed that B&W photo to the current walkers there this past summer and they couldn’t believe it either. Ha! That block has changed much over the years. Actually going back there today.

DJM78 on January 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

AWESOME PHOTO. I wonder what the seating capacity was? The place looks tiny. I’ve actually been inside the building. They sell candy and other products wholesale there. I can’t recall have far back the building runs from 3rd Ave.

Miguel on January 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Yep, it was a theatre. Pretty must looked like the B&W photo I posted until the late 1950s.

DJM78 on January 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I pass this place all the time. It was a movie theater? Until 1964? As for the El track post, I believe the Gowanus Expwy was built atop the BMT third avenue line.

Miguel on June 4, 2011 at 7:28 am

Just added a photo of the theatre from the NYC tax archive photos. Theatre was showing “Parents on Trial” and “Conspiracy” with Allan Lane.

A mystery: I noticed that there were El track posts in front of the theatre which I don’t remember from the late 1950s. Wondering if a train line ran that there— which is now the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway). BQE Verrazano extension wasn’t built until the early 1960 there, so I have to do a little research.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on May 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

thanks M.Bravo for a great post.Good story,hope you locate those pictures.

Miguel on May 13, 2011 at 8:00 am

Wow, can’t believe this is on here!

Let me try and give what info I can remember: The Alben was run by my parents and godmother in the 1950s. My dad, Ernesto was working the projectors, mom, Gloria, was at the candy counter and my godmother, Vicenta, was at the ticket booth out front.

The theater ran mostly Spanish-language films during the mid- to late 1950s. It ran singing cowboy, drama and comedy films. I was born in 1956, and when I was old enough to walk, I would walk down the aisle singing along with the Mexican cowboy in the movie playing— having had seen the film a bunch of times. My father or mom would grab me and promptly put me in the big maroon wing back chair in the lobby for a time out (yeah, ‘time-out’ before there was such a thing. lol). Oh how I hated that chair. lol

My father stopped managing the Alben in 1958, when he went back to Puerto Rico. I can’t remember, and will have to ask family members still alive, if the theater continued in other hands or was sold as retail space. I do remember that a candy wholesaler has been at that location (the one shown in KenRoe’s shots), maybe to this day. I don’t recall the walls being painted white. Still had the old brick facade.

I’m going to see if there are any photos of the theater from my family pics. If I find any, I will post them. If anybody has any more news about the theater, please let me know. My mom and her cousin are the only ones left from that era. Have to pump them for more info.

I think this site is great. Lots of other Brooklyn theaters that I went to as a kid. Oh, the great memories. They just don’t make them like that anymore….

jflundy on November 18, 2008 at 11:23 am

My uncle was an usher at the Etude Theater back in 1916 when he was 15 years old. Among his duties was to run completed reels of current attraction to the owner’s other theater, the Grand, as soon as it was projected so it could be shown at the Grand Theater, in a carefully timed sequence. His route was a one way delivery, he did not recall if the reel was returned directly to the Etude for another showing or was relayed to yet a third theater. One day the projectionist handed him a reel without the can and he took off with it and got to the Grand. He was smoking a cigarette when he handed it up to the projectionist being ignorant of the risk he had run.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on June 27, 2006 at 2:14 pm

Listed in Trows Business Directory 1912 as being operated by Elias Bernstein. The American Film Directory 1914-1915 lists it as the Etude Theatre (although the address is incorrectly given as #5422 Third Avenue).

It was re-named the Alben Theatre in the mid-1930’s and I believe it closed as a movie theatre in the mid-1950’s.

I have taken an external look around the building today and it is actually not painted blue & white as Orlando states in his post. The original stonework/bricks are unpainted and there are some decorated stone features on the facade. The building today is in use as a paper goods wholesale’s outlet.

Orlando on September 18, 2004 at 3:28 pm

The former Alben Theatre building still exists in another use, it’s exterior is painted blue and white the last time I saw it about 4 years ago.