The historic Kings Theatre in Flatbush opened its doors on February 3 to a new generation of audiences. The lead act—the incomparable Diana Ross—was not the night’s only focus of attention; the theatre itself performed for the first time in decades. Built in 1929 as one of
five Loews “Wonder Theatres,” the landmark has been painstakingly restored by the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Company—a consortium of
ACE Theatrical Group, the Goldman Sachs Urban Group, and the National
When the architecture firm Rapp & Rapp planned
the original theatre, it echoed elements of the Palace of Versailles and the
Paris Opera House in its design to create a supremely luxurious entertainment
environment for films and Vaudeville acts. In this era, an evening out at the
“movies” was a fully immersive affair. With a seating capacity of 3,000 and
totaling 83,000 square feet, the theatre’s soaring, arched ceilings,
intricately ornamented plaster walls and wood paneling, gold-leaf detailing,
crystal chandeliers, and pink marble accents provided a marvel for audiences
drawing from near and far.
All of this fell into disrepair after the theatre
closed in 1977. The City of New York purchased the building in 1983 to perform
structural repairs, and then in 2008, the New York City Economic Development
Corporation (NYCEDC) began its competitive search for an entity to restore the theatre
and bring fresh cultural and economic opportunity to the area.
“The renovation and reopening of the Kings Theatre
defines the renaissance that Brooklyn is celebrating. The Kings Theatre
will present the greatest entertainment for children, families, and adults and
act as a catalyst of the rebirth of Flatbush Avenue as a premiere shopping and
dining attraction for residents and visitors alike,” said Marty Markowitz, former
borough president and Vice President of Borough Promotion and Engagement for
NYC & Company.
The massive restoration project was led by
Martinez+Johnson Architecture, with contracting by Gilbane Building Company.
The team faithfully restored the original structure and details—recreating the
marquee with new lighting fixtures; refabricating 2,354 square feet of
carpeting as well as 7 chandeliers; re-roofing the entire
building; and reinstating the glazed terracotta façade—while
also bringing the space into the 21st century with up-to-date multipurpose
performance features. This includes a 10,000-square-foot expansion of the
backstage area to accommodate technical requirements for live performance.
Diana Ross’s sold out show on February 3 kicks off the theatre’s plan to bring 200 diverse performances annually to Flatbush,
sparking renewed interest in the area and revitalizing it through shops, restaurants,
and residential opportunities. The theatre alone brings hundreds of new jobs to
Walking in for the first time on January 23, my jaw
dropped before the enormous interior, with its rippling sea of red seats, lush
carpeting, and endless jewel-like ornamentation—plaster moldings, etched
mirrors, crystal-laced chandeliers. The theatre dome is truly awe-inspiring, worthy
of more than a few moments of reflection on how much we have lost in the move
between centuries, and how grateful we are for those who undertake these
miraculous restorations of our past.
Kings Theatre, 1027 Flatbush
Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
Photographs courtesy Matt Lambros
Post by Anne Hellman