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Kings Theatre

By Dan Brenner

Posted on June 12, 2019

Interior view of Kings Theatre, circa 1950; v1973.5.1847; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush, the Loews Kings Theatre opened its doors on September 7, 1929 with a screening of Evangeline, directed by the prolific filmmaker Edwin Carewe. The theatre was then one of the five “wonder theaters” of New York and New Jersey, all owned by Loews and with similar grandiose designs. The Kings Theatre was the flagship of the company.

Programming originally included a stage show accompanied by a feature film, but production costs coinciding with the tumult of the Great Depression in the 1930s forced Loews to change their format and remove stage performances from their programs.

The building was designed in the French Renaissance style by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp, influenced by such classic works of architecture as the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House. The interior was designed by Harold W. Rambusch of the family-owned and New York City-based Rambusch Decorating Company. Rambusch had worked previously on the interior of the Roxy Theatre in Manhattan and a few years later would go on to design the public rooms of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in the 1930s.

Movie stars weren’t only appearing on the big screen at the Kings Theatre, they were also in the aisles. Flatbush-native Barbara Streisand worked there as an usher in the 1950s as did local teenagers Henry Winkler and Sylvester Stallone!

Attendance to the theatre declined in the 1950s and 60s. The final showing took place on April 25, 1977 for the Franklin J. Schaffner directed film Islands in the Stream. Loews relinquished the theatre and the doors were closed, albeit briefly until it re-opened in June after an independent company purchased the building. Sadly, only six weeks later on August 29, the theatre would close again.

The majestic Kings Theatre sat empty and abandoned at 1027 Flatbush Avenue for the next several decades, until 2006 when the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), along with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, rallied for the theatre to be restored to its original splendor. In 2010, the Texas-based ACE Theatrical Company was chosen to head the massive $95 million restoration project. Work began in 2013, culminating in the grand re-opening on February 3, 2015 with a special performance by Diana Ross. After years of neglect, the newly-restored Kings Theatre had been brought back to life.

This image comes from the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection (ARC.202). For more information please see our finding aid here and for more photographs from this collection, please visit our image gallery here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections; visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. [email protected].

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