RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

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RKO Keith's Theatre

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 1,303 comments)

Jeffrey1955 on November 24, 2017 at 3:19 pm

“The entire interior of the movie palace used to be a city landmark. However, parts of it were later de-designated by the city’s Board of Estimates, a body that no longer exists, leaving only parts of it — including the grand foyer and ticket lobby — with the status.” Is this accurate? I don’t recall the entire interior ever being designated, and then most of it de-designated. In fact, I don’t remember that ever being mentioned here before. (BTW, it’s “Board of Estimate”)

WilliamMcQuade on November 24, 2017 at 3:27 pm

It was de designated at the behest of than Borough President Donald Manes. He voted against upholding designation of the Loews Triboro . He was very anti preservationist. He was a subject of a corruption probe and later committed suicide

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on January 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Regal Cinemas has signed a 20-year lease deal for a seven-screen theatre within Tangram, a new mixed-use development at 135-15 39th Avenue in downtown Flushing, according to a report in the weekly Queens Courier. More details here

robboehm on January 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm

All well and good but where are people supposed to park?

BobbyS on January 29, 2019 at 2:25 am

If Regal wants to give their patrons ground shaking, wind and rain during the showing of movies, they should really build it inside the Keith. All these elements are already there aren’t they? Regal wanted to build a cinema & a large Imax type screen in the Uptown Theatre in Chicago 2 years ago…But that failed to happened and that was a good thing for the Uptown which now has a new lease on life..

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 15, 2019 at 7:09 pm

According to an article in The NY Times today, a new deal to develop the site has been reached and the developer plans on razing the structure in favor of a 16 story glass residential tower. The piece mentions that the lobby and foyer are landmarked, so permission from the LPC had to be obtained. It makes no mention, however, of preserving the landmarked areas – leading me to wonder if the LPC is declassifying the building all together just to be done with the entire saga already. I’d link out to the article, but NYT is a subscription site and access usually doesn’t last. You can easily google it like I did.

Jeffrey1955 on April 15, 2019 at 8:59 pm

A friend forwarded that article to me. It’s a little hard to believe, considering the number of times this has been said before…but the reporter writes it like an obituary for the theater, and says “this” developer is “really” committed to the project — unlike all the other developers who were just in it to flip the property. Plus the reporter says the theater has been vandalized over the years, failing to mention that the most serious damage was done intentionally by the owners! So I don’t know how much stock to put in the story. Fool me once, shame on me…fool me 50 times, shame on somebody or other.

DavidZornig on April 15, 2019 at 10:42 pm

Here is the NY Times article from 4/14/19.


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