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 1,240 comments)

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on April 17, 2015 at 10:53 am

It makes me crazy when I see how they’ve restored the Kings in Brooklyn and now they’re going to restore the Brooklyn Paramount as well. Perhaps I should be hopeful that the tide is turning and perhaps there’s a chance for the Keith’s as well, but with the complete lack of neighborhood interest and the fact that it’s QUEENS after all, I’m not going to hold my breath.

robboehm
robboehm on April 17, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Not all the proposed projects make it to completion: the Paramount in Stapleton, Staten Island was killed by bureaucracy; the Times Square on 42nd Street reno also died. I agree that it’s encouraging when you hear about some of these projects but I think the Keith’s is just too far gone with no real push.

markp
markp on April 18, 2015 at 7:08 pm

With all the damage you see in different photos, Im sorry to say it will just be way too much to restore this place. And a question, how did RKO triple this place? Under the balconies?

robboehm
robboehm on April 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm

Some places created auditoriums on the stage area or in dressing rooms. Both present here.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 18, 2015 at 10:48 pm

The Keith’s was triplexed by dividing the orchestra level in half right down the middle. The balcony was left intact with a false floor added in front of the first row railing to enclose the twinned orchestra level below and a screen hung from the top of the original proscenium. The balcony was definitely the auditorium of choice in those days, as it was massive and still had the majority of the theater’s architectural features and decor left intact.

As for comparing what is happening with theaters in Brooklyn to the fate of the Keith’s… Hasn’t Queens always received short shrift in matters of preservation???

robboehm
robboehm on April 19, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Big problem is there is no community push. The thing with Queens, it is the most diversely populated borough with the majority of the people of more recent origin than when the Keith’s was functioning.

markp
markp on April 19, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Thanks Ed Solero. It sounds similar to what Loews did to the Jersey in Jersey City N.J.

bazookadave
bazookadave on April 24, 2015 at 11:40 pm

Good lord I can’t believe I have not visited this site in over three years. Glad to see the comments and debates are still going on, and also glad to see Ed Solero and others still here! I have been exiled to red state hell and it sucks the big watoozi. I am going to check back here more regularly to still get the feeling I am living in my NYC hometown. Dang…I never got into the Keith’s to photograph! My loss.

robboehm
robboehm on April 25, 2015 at 10:07 am

Uploaded day and nighttime photos of the period when a triplex. Didn’t realize the boxy marquee was over the shell of the original humpback/turtle.

Perryh11364
Perryh11364 on May 21, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Sad my first movie in there was James Bond for your eyes only roger Moore. N be for it closed goast busters

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