Ditmas Theatre

990 McDonald Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11230

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Additional Info

Functions: Retail, Storage

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Ditmas Theatre

The Ditmas Theatre was a short lived venture, operating from 1918 to 1920. In recent years it has been in use by a soda distributor.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

dfc on December 18, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Ken, thanks for finding the “mystery theater” of 990 McDonald Avenue. That’s my old neighborhood and I remember back in the 1980s the owner of the soda place telling me that it was a theater. But 1920, how did you research this?

The BMT Culver El on McDonald Avenue was opened in 1919. Prior to that the BRT railroad ran at ground level with a stations at 18th Avenue, and near Elmwood Avenue, which may explain why two (and later three with the Culver Theater) were located on this small stretch of McDonald Avenue in the days before the automobile was common.

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on December 18, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Interesting about the BRT/BMT!

Info and photos are always welcome.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 18, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Information was gleaned from the excellent book(s) The Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume’s I & II by Cezar Del Valle. Published by Theatre Talks LLC in 2010, and available from Amazon. A ‘must buy’ for theatre enthusiasts, especially those in New York and surrounding area.

dfc on December 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The ceiling is very high and IIRC you could see evidence of where the projectionist’s booth was. Maybe one of the Brooklynites on the board can pay a visit to 990 McDonald Avenue and tell us if any evidence of it’s 80 years ago movie theater days is still visible.

dfc on December 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Looks like there was another “Ditmas Theater” a few blocks away at 115 Ditmas Avenue, with overlapping operating dates, each closing in 1920:

Ditmas Theater – 115 Ditmas Avenue

johndereszewski on December 26, 2010 at 11:35 pm

Hmm. So there were two Ditmas movie houses – one a theater and the other a theatre – that were situated, either right on or just off McDonald Ave., only a few blocks apart – and both closed on the very same year! This sounds almost too coincidental and at least suggests that only one of these theaters actually existed. Ken, does the book that you referenced shed any light on this? Specifically, does it say anything about the “other” Ditmas? Also, can anyone else cite a situation where two theaters with the very same names were situated in such close proximity? I certainly cannot think of any.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 26, 2010 at 11:51 pm

The Ditmas Theater on Ditmas Avenue operated from 1914-1920. This theatre, the Ditmas Theatre on McDonald Avenue (several streets away) operated from 1918-1920. Those are the only details given in The Brooklyn Theatre Index volumes on these two theatres.

johndereszewski on December 27, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Thanks Ken for the very quick response. So, this very coincidental situation did, in fact, occur.

I initially found the 1920 closing of both theaters odd, since the opening of the Culver El would seem to have made McDonald Ave. a more attractive place to run a theater. (Just think of all the movie houses that thrived, under the El, on Broadway and Fulton St. in Brooklyn.) I then remembered that the opening of the Culver El did not mark the end of street level railroad service and that a freight line continued to run on McDonald Ave. for many decades thereafter. This two level of train service probably undermined the commercial attractiveness for running movie houses here, especially when other less impacted commercial strips were situated in close proximity. In any event, that is my very speculative theory. Any other ideas?

dfc on December 27, 2010 at 4:33 pm

This 990 McDonald theatre was directly under the el so the noise problem may have been a factor in it’s closing. The other Ditmas theater appears in the photograph to be closer to East 2 Street where the elevated train noise wouldn’t be a big problem.

After the El opened in 1920 trolley cars used the street trackage until 1956. And also the occasional freight train until 1978 when the tracks were permanently removed in places during the repaving of McDonald Avenue.

McDonald Avenue was never a desirable business location because of the El. A lot of stores would come and go, along with chronic vacancies.

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