Century Theatre

850 Monroe Street,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Teller's Shubert Theater 1929

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 on October 17, 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 Theatre and Bushwick Theatre.

In 1913, the Shubert Brothers 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 Theatre. 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 Theatre reverted to plays and vaudeville, but by the 1920’s 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 Theatre. Changing the theatre’s name to Century Theatre, 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 Theatre and Loew’s Gates Theatre. 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 Theatre closed and re-opened several times, and may have undergone another name change to the Symphony Theatre before finally being shuttered forever in the early-1940’s.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

Bway
Bway on November 6, 2007 at 5:51 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 12:31 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 12:24 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 2:13 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 2:23 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 9:26 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.

Willburg145
Willburg145 on July 4, 2017 at 9:48 am

What a shame they tore down the Century. What a beautiful building. The area where the Gates and Monroe theatres were has undergone a transformation. Gentrification has taken root.

Bway
Bway on November 15, 2018 at 8:59 am

Here’s a stunning photo of the Centurt/Shubert photo in 1940. It appears it was already abandoned by that point. A huge substantial theater with a very short life.

http://nycma.lunaimaging.com:8181/MediaManager/srvr?mediafile=/Size4/NYCMA~7~7/975/nynyma_rec0040_3_01481_0030.jpg

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on November 16, 2018 at 12:09 pm

If you enlarge the photo, you can see the corner entrance to the RKO Bushwick directly behind the abandoned Century/Shubert marquee.

AndreasP
AndreasP on December 27, 2018 at 8:04 am

The photo of the proscenium seems to be of another theatre, the “Park Theatre” in Fulton Street, Brooklyn (known as “Shubert Theatre” or “Shubert Park Theatre” from 1905 to Dec 1907), according to https://books.google.de/books?id=X8GqBndVPZYC&pg=PA282

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