Kings Theatre

Brooklyn, New York | C.1929

Photo Credit: Marco Fratus

On September 7, 1929, the majestic palace of Brooklyn would make its debut. While not home to a king or queen, anyone could feel royal in its grand performance hall—especially Dolores Del Rio. The first part-“talkie” to premiere at the Kings Theatre, Evangeline, starred the young Del Rio who would end up saying a few words to that first audience, along with pre-recorded greetings from multiple movie stars of the era to what we can assume was a thunderous applause. Despite being named after a king, it was a queen of the silver screen who began this theater’s history.  

Designed by famed Chicago firm Rapp & Rapp, the Kings was one of several “wonder theaters” that appeared across the United States prior to the depression era. Situated on Brooklyn’s buzzing Flatbush Avenue, the theater’s glistening neon signage could be seen for multiple blocks, and the ornate decoration reminiscent of the Paris Opera House amazed audiences. Holding 3,676 seats, it boasted a pipe organ, orchestra pit, and for off-duty staff, there was even a basketball court in the basement. We cannot confirm whether games there were played to the same chivalric standards of royal courts.

Like many theatres across the United States, the grand movie palazzo began to see a decline in the 1970s due to having just a single screen. It was shuttered in 1977 and sold to the city of New York, remaining mostly intact for decades due to community patchwork and management. While multiple attempts were made to resurrect and transform the Versailles-like theater, each one failed due to the financial undertaking of such a massive space. 

In 2010, the city announced a $95 million restoration of the old Brooklyn landmark, with the intention of fully restoring the theater to its appearance from that opening night back in 1929. After years of painstakingly detailed work, the Kings Theatre was once again open to the masses of Brooklyn in 2015. Once again, it would be a modern day queen welcoming patrons back to the Kings’ stage for its first comeback performance: Diana Ross.

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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