Loew’s Kings Theatre Part One – Building and Opening

I’ve decided to expand my post on the Kings Theatre into four 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.

Blueprints for the auditorium of the Kings.

Originally a carport for the Brooklyn Railroad Company, 1027 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, where the Kings was built, was actually almost the home of another theater ten years earlier. William Fox of the Fox Film Corporation purchased the property on November 1, 1919, and intended to build the biggest theater in Brooklyn on the site. Fox hired famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb to design a 3500 seat theater on the property, but it never happened. Fox liked to buy land in areas he thought could be or needed a theater, often never building anything and just selling the land years later.

Workers constructing the foundation of the theater.

In 1927, Famous Players (Paramount) entered into an agreement with the Allied Owners Corporation, a subsidiary of New York Investors, Inc., to finance the construction of the theater. According to the agreement, the Allied Owners Corp. would hold the deed to the Flatbush Ave. property along with three others in New York and one in Birmingham, Alabama and finance the construction of the theaters. Upon completion, the theaters would be leased to the Paramount-Famous Players- Lasky Corporation to repay the bond. In October 1927, Allied Owners sold an issue of $9,500,000 real estate bonds and used the profits to finance the building of the five theaters. These theaters were the Paramount, Kings, and Pitkin in Brooklyn, the Valencia in Jamaica, NY, and the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham.

View from the main level of the auditorium of the Loew’s Valencia in Queens, NY.

When the Loew’s Corporation found out about the theaters, Nicholas Schenck contacted Paramount to offer a new deal. In exchange for showing Paramount Films in over 40 of Loew’s theaters, Paramount would sublease three of the four New York theaters over to Loew’s, keeping the one located in downtown Brooklyn.When the agreement was finalized, the Pitkin, the Valencia, and the Kings opened as Loew’s theaters. The theaters would be paid for in 181 monthly payments: $20,983 a month for The Kings, $18,873 for The Pitkin, and, $18,228 a month for The Valencia.

Blueprint for the auditorium ceiling.

Paramount hired the architectural design firm of Rapp & Rapp to design the Kings. They were also responsible for designing the Paramount Theatre in Manhattan, the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn and the Uptown Theatre in Chicago. C.W Rapp passed away in 1926, and most likely had nothing to do with the designing of the Kings. Edwin “Ted” Bullock, one of George and C.W’s nephews, ran the New York office of Rapp & Rapp, located in the Paramount Theatre Building in Times Square, during the 1920s. 

The steel framework of the Kings Theatre.

Work on the Kings began in the spring of 1928. The railroad buildings were demolished first, to make way for the building’s foundation. Once the foundation was poured, the steel frame was erected, followed by the roof. This permitted construction at the top of the building and the bottom simultaneously, which allowed for faster building. The Kings cost 1,300,000 to build in 1928 which when adjusted for inflation comes to $17,767,198.83.

Anne Dornin’s Theatre Decorator’s Color Chart

The interior of the Kings was decorated by the Rambusch Company with the assistance of Anne H. Dornin, who was in charge of theater decor for Loew’s Incorporated. Dornin, an architect herself, started work with the firm of Thomas W. Lamb shortly after graduating from Columbia University, and became associated with the Loew’s Corporation after decorating the interior of some of the theaters Lamb designed for Loew’s. She came up with something she called “the Theatre Decorators’ Color Chart” which had certain criteria she used to determine what colors would be used inside each theater she decorated. The main colors she picked for the Kings were Red and Bright Gold, which she felt were perfect for large theaters in metropolitan areas.

View from the balcony shortly before opening.

According to E.A. Schiller, a VP of Loew’s Inc, the original structural plan was changed due to vaudeville and silent films declining in popularity, and motion pictures becoming more and more prominent. The entire design was revised to further the acoustical properties of the theater. Engineers at Loew’s came up with a coating that when applied to the ceilings and walls of the theater would create a texture would help to give a more uniform sound vibration across the entire auditorium. Even the elaborate ornamentation and heavy velvet drapes were designed to distribute sound throughout the auditorium.

Another change that was made to further the audibility of sound coming from the screen was the reduction of the size of the balcony. The original plans called for the Kings to have a much larger balcony, but it was discovered that a shorter and wider mezzanine would improve sound and vision. The auditorium’s footprint was widened to account for more seats being placed on the main level. 2,793 of the 3,692 seats were located on the main level with 899 in the shallow balcony. The wider auditorium also helped the sound from the speakers behind the screen to reach the entire audience.

The exterior of the theater circa March 30, 1930.

Kings wasn’t always the name of the theater. It was first called the Tilden, named for the nearby cross street. Paramount had intended to call it the Tilden Theatre, but when Loew’s took over they considered several different names including Loew’s Tilden and Loew’s Regent. Regent made it as far as being included in some of the blueprints and contractors’ agreements, but in the end the theater was named “Kings” for the county where it was located. This final name change came around six months before the theater opened, in time to include it on the marquee and vertical sign.

The opening day program from September 7, 1929.

On July 26, 1929, E. A. Schiller, vice-president of Loew’s, announced that the grand opening celebration of the Kings would take place on August 24, 1929. However there were two delays before the theater finally opened on September 7, 1929. The doors were opened to the public at 11 AM as part of a full day grand opening celebration. However, the official ceremony did not kick off until 9 PM that evening when James J. Bryne, the Brooklyn Borough President, took the stage. Bryne spoke about how grateful the residents of Brooklyn were to have a magnificent theater like the Kings opening in their borough.

Rivoli Restaurant was one of the many Flatbush establishments to take out an advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle welcoming the Loew’s Kings Theatre to the neighborhood.

A number of movie stars made special “appearances” at the opening via pre-recorded messages. Marion Davies, John Gilbert, Conrad Nagel, William Haines, and Buster Keaton each appeared on screen congratulating Loew’s on the opening of its new theater. The opening presentation was a Broadway-style stage show called Frills and Fancies and was directed by Arthur Knorr. It began with a rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner by Beal Hober, which was followed by an overture performed by the house orchestra, The Kings Grand Orchestra. Wesley Eddy, the evening’s Master of Ceremonies, took the stage next and sang If I Had You, and It All Depends on You. Jack North, a banjo-playing comedian, took the stage and sang a few songs. Christy and Nelson, a comedy acrobatic team, had the audience laughing with their routine. William “Singing Bill” Zuckerman, the Kings organist, played the Wonder Morton Organ, and a talking newsreel was shown. Next, Teddy Joyce, master of ceremonies at the Loew’s Penn Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA came out to introduce the star of the evening, Dolores Del Rio. Del Rio said a few words to mark the occasion and to introduce her film “Evangeline” which was the night’s feature presentation. Eddy retook the stage to sing the theme song for Evangeline. Nina Oginska, an internationally famous ballerina, and the Chester Hale Girls joined him on stage during the theme song. According to an advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 10,000 people attended the opening celebration.

Part Two will be available in two weeks. Material from for this post was taken from the first three chapters of my book, Kings Theatre; The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theater.  If you’d like to buy a copy they are available on Amazon, and my website.

Historic photographs and blueprints are from the archival collections of the Theatre Historical Society of America

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Summer Print Sale 2017

Capitol Theatre – New London, CT

It’s time for another summer print sale! All prints will be $20 – $50 off from now until August 10. Check out the current prints being offered at http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/store/

The available sizes and sale prices are:

8″x12″ – $30.00

12″x18″ – $75.00

16″x24″ – $125.00

Images are printed on Kodak Professional Endura Supra paper.

If there’s an image you’d like a print of, but do not see it on the prints page e-mail me at matt@mlambrosphotography.com. Payment is accepted via Paypal,  or credit card. Prints are shipped via USPS or FedEx.

 

Upcoming Events

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Warner Theatre – Huntington Park, CA

Hi everyone! I’ll be making appearances across the US to promote my two books, “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater” and “Kings Theatre: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre.”

Here are the kick off events for 2017:

I’ll be speaking and signing books at the Red Room at KGB Bar in New York City on March 21, 2017 at 7PM. Tickets can be purchased at: http://www.atlasobscura.com/events/after-the-final-curtain

Studebaker_Theatre_01
View of the Studebaker Theatre from the stage.

On April 22 and 23 I’ll have a table at the New Bedford Bookfest in New Bedford, MA. There will be a lecture with a Q&A session on Saturday, April 22 from 1:30PM to 3PM at the fest. Tickets are $10, or $50 with a signed copy of “After the Final Curtain: The Fall of the American Movie Theater.”

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Everette Square Theatre – Boston, MA

Have you ever wanted to tour an abandoned theater with me? Well, you’re in luck! On May 4 at 6PM I’ll be speaking at the Hyde Park branch of the Boston Public Library, then taking everyone who attends on a tour of the Everett Square Theatre! Visit Art Week Boston for more information.

Copies of both books will be available at all events.

There will be more events throughout 2017 so if there’s somewhere you’d like me to speak, let me know in the comments below!

Kings Theatre Book Update

Book Cover 5

What was the original name of the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn? Is there a reason it was painted in red and gold? What famous architect almost designed the Kings? These questions and more are answered in my new book, “Kings Theatre: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre“, which is available now!

It was published by the Theatre Historical Society of America, and contains never before seen historic and modern photographs of the Kings, as well as a complete history of the theater. The book can be ordered on Amazon and signed copies are available via my site.

After the Final Curtain Anniversary

View from the balcony of the Loew's Kings Theatre.
View from the balcony of the Loew’s Kings Theatre.

Hey Everyone! There are a couple big events coming up – the 5 year anniversary of After the Final Curtain, the release of the Kings Theatre book, the AFtC Facebook page reaching 10,000 (!) followers, and one other announcement I’m going to keep secret the moment. To celebrate, I’m going to give away a signed copy of my upcoming book, Kings Theatre; the Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre when it’s released to one person who shares or likes a post on the AFtC Facebook page from now until the page reaches 10,000 followers.

Thank you for all your support over the years and good luck everyone!

For more on the book visit: https://afterthefinalcurtain.net/book/

Summer Print Sale

Loew's Palace Theatre Bridgeport, CT
Loew’s Palace Theatre Bridgeport, CT

I’m getting married this October so I’m having a print sale to help us go on our honeymoon! Use the code “HONEYMOONSALE” at http://www.afterthefinalcurtainprints.com/ when checking out to get 25% off your order. I’ve added some images from upcoming blog posts as well as new photographs from old favorites (including some shots of the renovated Kings Theatre) to the prints page.

If you have any questions please e-mail me and I’ll be happy to answer them for you.

Kodak Professional Supra Endura Luster paper is used for all print sizes.

Kings Theatre Brooklyn, NY
Kings Theatre Brooklyn, NY
Ceiling, Paramount Theatre Newark, NJ
Ceiling, Paramount Theatre Newark, NJ
Mezzanine, Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL
Mezzanine, Studebaker Theatre Chicago, IL
Fox Theatre Inglewood, CA
Fox Theatre Inglewood, CA

 

Theater RePhotographs

 

Over the years, I’ve come across a number of vintage photographs while researching blog posts for After the Final Curtain.  One resource is the Theatre Historical Society of America‘s American Theatre Architecture Archive. With their permission I was able to combine our photographs to create these “rephotographs” showcasing a glimpse of what I have seen over the years. The composite of these images illustrates the rise and fall of these buildings and the potential for what they could become again, if restored.

 

B&W Image of the RKO Keith's Theatre from the Richard L. Hay Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America
RKO Keith’s Theatre Flushing, NY B&W Image of the RKO Keith’s Theatre from the Richard L. Hay Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America

The before photograph of the RKO Keith’s Theatre was taken in 1955, and the after was taken in 2011, twenty-five years after the theater closed.

Loew’s Kings Theatre Brooklyn, NY B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America
Loew’s Kings Theatre Brooklyn, NY B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America

The before photograph of the Loew’s Kings Theatre was taken in 1929, and the after was taken in 2010, thirty-three years after it closed.

B&W image of the RKO Hamilton Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America
RKO Hamilton Theatre Manhattan, NY B&W image of the RKO Hamilton Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America

The before photograph of the RKO Hamilton Theatre was taken in the 1930s, and the after was taken in 2011, fifty-three years after the theater closed.

B&W image of the Loew's Palace Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America
Loew’s Palace Theatre Bridgeport, CT B&W image of the Loew’s Palace Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America

The before photograph of the Loew’s Palace Theatre was taken in the 1930s, and the after was taken in 2011, thirty-six years after the theater closed.

B&W image of Proctor's Palace Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America
Proctor’s Palace Theatre Newark, NJ B&W image of Proctor’s Palace Theatre courtesy of the American Theatre Architecture Archive of the Theatre Historical Society of America

The before photograph of the Proctor’s Palace Theatre was taken in 1955, and the after was taken in 2010, forty-two years after the theater closed.

 

Limited Edition Prints of these images are available at http://www.mlambrosphotography.com/rephotographs

A portion of sales from this limited edition print run will benefit the Theatre Historical Society of America and support their mission to document and celebrate the history of America’s theatres. For more information — check out their website at www.historictheatres.org

 

 

 

 

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Kings Theatre – The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre

 

Proscenium arch from the balcony, Loew's Kings Theatre. B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America
Proscenium arch from the balcony, Loew’s Kings Theatre.
B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America

 

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve partnered with the Theatre Historical Society of America for my first book: Kings Theatre, The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Brooklyn’s Wonder Theatre. The book will cover the entire history of the Loew’s Kings Theatre from it’s original construction to the reopening in February 2015.  I’ve photographed over 75 abandoned theaters over the past 5 years, and being able to document one being restored has been amazing. Every visit to the theater has been awe inspiring and I can’t wait to share what I’ve seen with all of you. 

Kings Theatre Pre-renovation.
Kings Theatre Pre-renovation.

Thanks to everyone at THS, ACE Theatrical Group, Evergreene Architectural Arts, Martinez + Johnson Architecture and Gilbane Building Company for all the help bringing this project to fruition.

Kings Theatre after renovation.
Kings Theatre after renovation.

 

To order signed copies of the book visit: http://www.afterthefinalcurtainprints.com/product/kings-theatre-the-rise-fall-and-rebirth-of-brooklyn-s-wonder-theatre

and regular copies: https://www.amazon.com/Kings-Theatre-Rebirth-Brooklyns-Wonder/dp/0692032002/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

And Now for Something (kind of) Different

B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America
B&W Image from the Loew’s Collection, American Theatre Architecture Archive, Theatre Historical Society of America

I’m currently working on something I’m very excited about, but can’t announce just yet. I still want to give you all a hint though! 

The photos in the triptych above are of the Loew’s Kings Theatre lobby when the theater was open, 30 years after it had been closed, and six months into the restoration.

Keep an eye out for more details soon!

 

 

 

© Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Lambros and After the Final Curtain with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.