Meticulous makeover for former Loew’s Kings movie palace in Flatbush

It's reopening in January as a performing arts venue called Kings Theatre

September 18, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
C'est magnifique: French Renaissance-style fabulousness at the former Loew's Kings in Flatbush, which is being renovated. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese
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Back from the dead.

A former Loew’s picture palace in Flatbush that showed its final film when Jimmy Carter was president is making a comeback as a meticulously renovated performing arts venue.

Calling Kings Theatre meticulously renovated may be the understatement of the year, as a hard-hat tour for reporters revealed Tuesday.

The firms involved in a fab rehab of the fabled movie house have gone to extraordinary lengths to make it look like it did in the glory days after its 1929 debut as the Loew’s Kings.

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“These buildings were designed to transport the audience, to change their lives,” architect Gary Martinez told the Brooklyn Eagle during the tour of the theatre at 1027 Flatbush Ave., which is set to re-open in January as a 3,200-seat venue that will host more than 200 music, comedy, theatre and dance performances per year.

Designed to look like the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera House, the theatre is an utter visual delight that seems doubly luxurious because it was meant to be seen only during moments when customers weren’t sitting in the dark watching movies.

There’s an auditorium big enough to assemble an army with its soaring 80-plus-foot ceiling and walls encrusted with a dazzling array of plaster decorations, gilded and glowing.

Huge pairs of spiral columns flank the stage and enclose twin organ lofts that housed the pipes of the organ used to play musical accompaniment for the movies.

Beneath the organ lofts there are grottoes decorated with busts of the Greek god Pan, which served as waiting areas for vaudeville players before they went onstage.

Outside the auditorium, a spectacular foyer and other rooms are also jaw-droppingly ornate. There’s a magnificent staircase to the mezzanine.

The theatre’s soon-to-be-completed, $93.9 million restoration is being handled by venue operator ACE Theatrical Group, Martinez + Johnson Architecture, EverGreene Architectural Arts and Gilbane Building Co.

“We were called on to bring life back to this building,” Gilbane exec Neil Heyman told reporters during the tour.

That proved to be an epic task because of water damage from a leaking roof at the vacant-since-1977-venue — and thieving vandals.

“It was a wreck, an urban wreck,” said EverGreene president Jeff Greene.

Restoration was done to “museum standards,” Greene said. The theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

One lucky break: High-hanging chandeliers weighing nearly 2,000 pounds apiece weren’t vandalized because nobody could get at them.

The restoration team has also constructed a modern back-stage area for dressing rooms and set storage — and a two-truck loading dock to make life simpler for roadies.

Big-time theatre architects Rapp & Rapp designed the Loew’s Kings, which was referred to as a “Wonder Theatre” because of its size and opulence.

The place engenders nostalgia in over-50 folk who grew up nearby. Some remember white-gloved movie ushers who made sure teens behaved themselves during date nights.

Famed comedian Bob Hope appeared on its stage, back in the day. Superstar Barbra Streisand has said she went to the movies there every Saturday in her youth.

ACE Theatrical Group, based in Houston, is renting the property from the city in a consortium with Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and the National Development Council. The 55-year lease was executed in December 2012.

“The public owns it,” ACE CEO David Anderson told reporters. “Our mission is to provide entertainment for the entire community.”

The reopened theatre is expected to be an economic-growth engine for Central Brooklyn.

“We see this as having a transformative impact,” said Benjamin Branham, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of the city Economic Development Corp.

By the way, here’s a political trivia tidbit : At the time of the lease signing, Alicia Glen, who is now the de Blasio Administration’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development, was involved in the Kings Theatre project as managing director and head of Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group.



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