Century Theatre

850 Monroe Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Century Theater

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theatre was once one of the most important in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn but is virtually forgotten today. The entrance was on Monroe Street, near the intersection of Broadway and Howard Avenue. Built and owned by realtor William J. Buttlings, it first opened as the Sam S. Shubert Theatre in October, 1910. With Shubert bookings of plays and vaudeville, the theatre was a big success until competition arrived a year later with the openings of the nearby DeKalb and Bushwick Theatres.

In 1913, the Shuberts sold their lease to Marcus Loew, who installed movies along with vaudeville, although the Shubert Theatre name remained. In 1915, Loew took over the larger DeKalb Theatre and arranged for Leo Teller to take over the Shubert. As part of this deal, Loew also acquired Teller’s Broadway Theatre and turned it into a movie house. The newly named Teller’s Shubert reverted to plays and vaudeville, but by the 1920s also started presenting “road shows” of major movies simultaneously with or directly after their Broadway engagements.

In 1928, Leo Teller retired at age 69, and a new management took over the Shubert. Changing the theatre’s name to Century, they tried various policies of vaudeville and/or movies, but could not compete successfully against what had become the area’s leaders, the RKO Bushwick and Loew’s Gates. By 1937, it was presenting burlesque shows like “Girls From The Follies” until a police crack-down forced a return to late-run double feature movies. The Century closed and re-opened several times, and may have undergone another name change to the Symphony before finally being shuttered forever in the early 1940’s.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 10, 2007 at 1:41 pm

As depressing a sight as the housing that replaced Loew’s Triboro in Astoria. But thanks for sharing!

Bway
Bway on November 12, 2007 at 10:24 am

I agree….it’s probably better than a vacant lot as it was in my 2004 photo of the location, however, these homes are about as aesthically pleasing as a cement block wall.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on May 1, 2008 at 7:55 am

Here are new links to images described above on 11/2/07:
View link
View link

frankie
frankie on January 16, 2009 at 12:13 pm

This MAY be the theater where Mae West did her pre-Broadway try-out of “Diamond Lil” in 1928. Her autobiography mentions a theater where 3 streets come together.

Bway
Bway on January 18, 2009 at 12:23 pm

It would sound much more likely to have been this theater rather than the Monroe. It could also have been the RKO Bushwick perhaps. The Shubert/Century was highly ornate inside too from what it seems, as was the Bushwick. While I don’t know what the inside of the Monroe looked like, it was not on the scale of the RKO or the Century.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 18, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Yes, “Diamond Lil” did play its try-out engagement here, when the theatre was known as Teller’s Shubert. It broke all box-office records and then moved to the Royale Theatre in midtown Manhattan, where it opened April 9, 1928, and had a very successful run of 323 performances. The play was later the basis for West’s first starring vehicle in the movies, the 1933 “She Done Him Wrong.” She made her film debut the previous year with a featured role in “Night After Night.”

Bway
Bway on April 20, 2009 at 7:26 am

I have talked with so many people that used to live in the neighborhood, and they always remember the RKO Bushwick of course, and the Monroe next door to the Century, but rarely do they remember the Century. It’s probably because it closed to movies so early on, but the HUGE building would have been really hard to miss. Does anyone remember if this building just stood empty for all those years, or was it used for some other purpose? Old photos taken from the Gates Ave elevated subway platform show the building still in place as of the mid-70’s.

petermetzke
petermetzke on May 22, 2009 at 11:31 pm

May I ask the Astute Members of this site to correct me in thinking that the Century Theatre featured in the URL below ( also located in New York ) is in fact not located there and is not worthy of being featured.
It was featured on this site up until the end of last year ( 2008 ) under the theatre number of 23204 until someone pulled the plug on the page. The URL is below:

http://www.ibdb.com/venueimages.php?id=1292

I refer to the Century Theatre – Central Park West at W. 62nd Street., New York, NY

Jayar1
Jayar1 on May 5, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Century Theater,850 Monroe Street, Brooklyn, NY

View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

Here is a very belated answer to petermetzke’s question: The New Theatre/Century Theatre in Manhattan was removed from Cinema Treasures because there’s no evidence that it ever showed any movies.

However, the New Theatre did have an Aeolian theater organ when it opened, and this was replaced by a Wurlitzer in 1912, after the house had been renamed the Century. The Wurlitzer was repossessed about a year after its installation and moved to the Criterion Theatre.

Information about the organs is on this web page.

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