I’ve decided to expand my post on the Kings Theatre into 4-5 parts using some excerpts from my book, Kings Theatre; The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre. Find out more about the book here. This original post will remain, and the first part in the new series can be viewed here.
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 Kings introduced a few well known stars to their future craft. Some celebrities who grew up in Brooklyn attended shows at the 3,676 seat theater, including Barbra Streisand, Larry King, and Ben Vereen.
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.
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 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 Theatre Historical Society of America recently published 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.