RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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RKO Keith's Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Once one of the most celebrated movie palaces of New York City, the RKO Keith’s Theatre in the Flushing section of Queens, is only a ghost of its former self.

Opened as the Keith-Albee Theatre on December 25, 1928 with Clara Bow in “Three Week Ends” on the screen and Keith-Albee vaudeville on stage. By the 1970’s, the theatre had been tripled, and as legend has it, in 1986, after almost sixty years of showing movies, the theatre was closed and sold. Soon after, its owner attempted to demolish it before a hearing could be held to decide its fate.

Having already damaged its famous facade and with work commencing to gut the theatre, the demolition was halted by the city. The owner soon forfeited the property, and the damaged and stripped RKO Keith’s Theatre has sat and waited for its final demolition for almost 30 years.

Several plans have come and gone to convert the building into apartments, but it sits to this day.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,265 comments)

robboehm
robboehm on March 4, 2017 at 4:05 pm

Whatever the plan may be.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on March 4, 2017 at 10:08 pm

I’m not going to try scrolling back through the comments, but I’m pretty sure we’ve been through “proceeding according to plan” and “starting imminently” on here alone for at least a dozen years…

robboehm
robboehm on March 5, 2017 at 2:36 pm

My point exactly. The plan is so old it’s probably been forgotten and they’ll do whatever they want.

BobbyS
BobbyS on March 7, 2017 at 7:38 pm

I flew to NY last week and saw the RKO out of the window as I so often do. Bright sunny day and she looked so sad just standing there year after year..

Scott
Scott on March 8, 2017 at 1:20 pm

There wasn’t any plan that included the return of the Keith’s to some sort of theater use, correct? The best case was that the lobby would be retained in the new development. At least that’s my recollection.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on March 8, 2017 at 1:29 pm

My recollection too, though that seems like it was several owners ago. It was a silly plan to “preserve” a portion of the lobby behind glass, while destroying all the remaining artifacts of the remainder of the entryway, lobby and auditorium.

BobbyS
BobbyS on March 21, 2017 at 1:52 am

I wonder what the crime rate is. The area looks well built up and could use a movie theatre I would imagine. It would need more than three auditoriums today. Perhaps 8 or 10 if the basement is used and they could restore the lobby. I think that would be the best use for the building. Crime rate is up around the Uptown Theater in Chicago. Both in front and behind the building. Shootings and stabbings etc. That project seems to be stuck in limbo for now.

robboehm
robboehm on March 21, 2017 at 9:36 am

The last I heard Flushing was pretty much an Asian population. The last time I was there I couldn’t read the signage because it was in Chinese characters. Despite a lot of product coming from that part of the world very little is ever exhibited in this area.

LuisV
LuisV on March 21, 2017 at 1:51 pm

BobbyS, Crime is not an issue almost anywhere in New York City as crime rates are currently at historic lows. It is the prime reason why there is so much development all over the city and not just in Manhattan.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on March 21, 2017 at 2:11 pm

The main problem with Flushing has been that the primarily Asian community (it was mostly Korean for a while, but that may have shifted) consists of people who have no memory of the theater or any connection with its heritage. (At this point, that would probably be the case no matter what the ethnic makeup of the area.) There is no community support for preserving or rehabilitating the Keith’s because as far as they know, it’s been a boarded-up, vacant, out-of-context hulk sitting in their midst for as long as anyone can remember. And all the ownership changes and redevelopment plans that have focused on high-end apartments and/or condos have essentially been irrelevant to them as well.

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