Loew’s Kings Theatre

View of the auditorium from the balcony.
View of the auditorium from the balcony.

 

Loew’s Kings Theatre opened on September 7, 1929 in Brooklyn, NY, and was designed by the architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp (also known for the Paramount Theater in Times Square) and decorated by Harold W. Rambush.  It was operated by the Loew’s theaters chain, and, along with the Loew’s Jersey Theatre, Loew’s Paradise Theatre, the Loew’s Valencia Theatre and the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, it was one of the five “Loew’s Wonder Theaters” in the New York metropolitan area.

The Lobby of the Loew's Kings Theatre.
The Lobby of the Loew’s Kings Theatre.

The Kings introduced a few well known stars to their future craft.  Many celebrities who grew up in Brooklyn worked as ushers in the 3,676 seat theater, including Sylvester Stallone, and Henry Winkler.

A close up of the proscenium arch.
A close up of the proscenium arch.

Loew’s dropped the Kings in August 1977 due to low attendance and high maintenance costs, as well as the decline of the surrounding neighborhood. The Kings was passed over for many 1970s blockbusters, including Jaws and Star Wars. Instead, it showed mostly kung-fu and B-horror movies, films that were incapable of pulling in the massive audiences needed to sustain the theater. Already visibly deteriorating, the theater was sold in 1979 and later seized by the city for back taxes owed by the purchasing company.

A look back at the auditorium exits
A look back at the auditorium exits

Numerous restoration proposals have been presented over the years — including one that would have turned part of the lobby into a wax museum — but only recently have any plans been made official. On February 2, 2010, the City of New York announced a $70 million renovation in partnership with ACE Theatrical Group of Houston to restore the Kings Theatre for use as a performing arts center by 2015.

The foyer of the Loew's Kings Theatre
The foyer of the Loew’s Kings Theatre

The current plans call for the Kings’ interior spaces to be restored to their original 1929 splendor. Once reopened, the theater will be the third largest in New York City. Restoration began in January 2013, and the theater officially reopened on February 3, 2015.

The original chandeliers still hang in the lobby.
The original chandeliers still hang in the lobby.

I’m currently working on a book documenting the entire history of the Kings Theatre more information can be found at – Kings Theatre: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre.

One of the entrances to the auditorium.
One of the entrances to the auditorium.
View of the auditorium from the side of the main level.
View of the auditorium from the side of the main level.
A look back at one of the balcony exits.
A look back at one of the balcony exits.

 

The lobby's ceiling.
The lobby’s ceiling.
A close up of some of the plaster work in the lobby.
A close up of some of the plaster work in the lobby.
The organ chamber at the right of the stage.
The organ chamber at the right of the stage.
View of the auditorium from the center of the main level.
View of the auditorium from the center of the main level.

Kings_Theatre_13

 

Most of the projection equipment was left behind when the theater closed.
Most of the projection equipment was left behind when the theater closed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

50 thoughts on “Loew’s Kings Theatre

  1. beautiful! You should try to make your way to Connecticut and check out The Majestic Theater in Bridgeport. It’s been closed for ages, but the inside is in tact and pretty amazing.

  2. One of these palaces is still open and operating on a semi-regular basis. The Loew’s Jersey in Jersey City. They have themed weekend showings like old horror films, or Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy.
    http://www.loewsjersey.org 201-798-6055 for info on schedule
    Easy to get to on PATH!

  3. There were 4 theaters along Flatbush Avenue – the Astor, the Albemarle, the Loew’s Kings, and the Rialto. The Kings was just majestic, standing out among all the others, and showing ‘first-run’ films when they came to Brooklyn. Many a Saturday during the ’60’s, I would go to watch as many as 10 cartoons, a newsreel, and a double feature, plus Coming Attractions. Those were great times.

  4. Enjoyed your images and background. Have you thought of doing some HDRs of the theaters? I know it would look great.

  5. What a fantastic set of pictures. I grew up in Manhattan but I went to Brooklyn College. I have wanted to get in there for 30 years, especially after i saw “Memoirs of a Movie Palace” (it was shown on PBS once). Are the Orchestra and Organ lifts still there? It appears that the stage elevators have collapsed. Is that the case. Thank you again for the great pictures.

    1. Thanks! The orchestra lift is still there, but the organ lift is not. I think it was sealed up when the organ was removed in 1974. The curtain collapsed on to the stage, if there was any stage elevators on the stage, they’re probably under that.

  6. Hey!
    Just stumbled upon your blog through a post of 75 abandonded theatres. Would really like to go check this out. Is it open to get in or did you have to find your own way in?
    Awesome photos!

  7. That looks like a beautiful theater, both inside and out! Good luck to all you New Yorkers, and enjoy the new theater when it re-opens!

  8. Great Pictures. I remember sitting in the children’s section. They had matrons there to watch all the kids that were there unattended.

  9. Every time me and my parents would pass King’s theatre, I’d ask them what it was but they could never tell me. I would always try to imagine what was inside and this is way more than I expected. I’m in awe of your photos. It’s like I’ve stepped back in time!

  10. I’m amazed that this space hadn’t been converted to a big box store – thankfully.
    Are there any photos of the wonderful Roxy Theater in Manhattan? I saw some great stage shows including Danny Kaye there as a kid. Radio City Music Hall only one block east seemed to take the Roxy’s thunder away after it was opened.
    How about the Capitol on Broadway @ 50th Street?

  11. When the Loews Kings was in its final days, I was working for a local Brooklyn newspaper chain (whose main office then was on Flatbush Avenue). I got to know the woman who managed the Kings, and even did a piece on her. She had some wonderful photos; the one I remember most is of her posing with Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (who were on a promotional tour for WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE).

    Here are a couple Kings-related stories from when the theater was on its last legs. On one occasion (or so I was told), there were just three people on hand for an evening screening– and two of them mugged the third. (As I say, I have no idea if this actually happened.) Then another time, just one person showed up for a final evening screening. Several employees needed to remain on their jobs for as long as the theater remained open and the patron was told that, if he left early, he would have his money refunded, etc. But he refused to do so. He was adamant that he’d paid for his ticket and insisted on seeing the movie– even though he was the lone patron in the cavernous theater. And the manager had no choice but to screen the film for him.

  12. Matt,
    Evert time I view your photos of The Kings I am blown away at your talent. What most of the public doesn’t realize is that there was very little light in the theater when you photographed. I remember only a few bare bulbs on some visits. We all aided each other by shining our flashlights and aiming on the details jointly. I envy you for having the chance of chronicling this gem. Your passion will shine in every print. Thanks, if The Kings could talk she….hmm..he , would say thanks too.

  13. I live a block from this theatre and have been following the renovation for a couple years! They let me in to see it as well ‘cos I was so excited about it but I didn’t have a camera to capture the beauty of it- so happy to have came across thia, love your work!

  14. It has been so depressing to watch stunning movie palaces vanishing across America, especially ones I grew up experiencing firsthand as very special places that gave ordinary people a welcome break from hard work and an architecturally colorless everyday environment. What a boost to see the restoration of the Kings Theatre, even if one lives far away from Brooklyn. Cannot wait to see your book!

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