Century Theatre

850 Monroe Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Century Theater

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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 17 comments)

Bway
Bway on November 6, 2007 at 6:45 pm

Warren, you mention above the theater was demolished in 1978.

Bway
Bway on November 6, 2007 at 6:51 pm

This 1975 photo shows the Century Theater towering high above the el station at Gates Ave, and also dwarfed the RKO Bushwick Theater building (which is not an easy task)…..

http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?2637

Bway
Bway on November 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Here’s a photo of the Century Theater site taken this past week. Compare to the photo I took in the exact same spot above in my October 2004 posting.

Click Here for photo

Bway
Bway on November 12, 2007 at 1:24 pm

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.

frankie
frankie on January 16, 2009 at 3:13 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 3:23 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.

Bway
Bway on April 20, 2009 at 10:26 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 23, 2009 at 2:31 am

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 11:49 pm

Century Theater,850 Monroe Street, Brooklyn, NY

View link

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2012 at 12:49 pm

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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