Kings Theatre one step closer to being Brooklyn’s biggest arts venue
It’s back, and better than ever.
Shuttered for almost four decades, a completely renovated Kings Theater will reopen in January, 2015 as New York’s newest major performing arts facility, and Brooklyn’s biggest, with over 3,000 seats and a new look that, developers said, maintains as much of the old theater’s original architectural charm as possible.
“This building has a lot of life and we were really called upon to bring that life back into this building,” Gilbane Building Co. executive Neil Heyman told members of the media on Tuesday, September 16 as he and others led them on a hard-hat tour of the nearly finished Flatbush venue, which opened in 1929 as one of the five Loew’s “Wonder Theatres” constructed in New York and New Jersey.
The 85-year-old theatre, designed by Rapp and Rapp and inspired by both the Paris Opera House and France’s Palace of Versailles, closed in 1977 (after one final showing of the film “Islands in the Stream”) and was acquired by the city in 1983, then lay dormant for the next 25 years. Spurred by then-Borough President Marty Markowitz in 2008, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) began an extensive search for someone to revive the theatre’s pulse.
Chosen in 2009, the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Company – an alliance made up of ACE Theatrical Group, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and the National Development Council – has spent the next four years bringing the $93 million renovation home.
Now, the team is putting the finishing touches on the borough’s brand new performing arts venue, sitting pretty at 1027 Flatbush Avenue.
“We tried to save as much material as we could,” stressed architect Gary Martinez of some of the lavish theatre’s most unique features, including a number of ginormous chandeliers that will hover 48-feet above the new and improved concession area as well as a set of the theatre’s original furniture, passed on when the building shut its doors to a former building manager who, at 100 years old, gave it back.
“Our intention is to recreate and respect the theatre,” said Martinez, stressing that the team hasn’t just been “scrubbing it clean,” it’s been “restoring its character” as time wasn’t easy on the theatre’s 86,000 square feet – dimensions developers have since expanded to 93,000. “Some of the damage was taken care of by vandalism, but Mother Nature took care of the rest.”
Included in that character, Heyman noted, are the theatre’s exquisite marble floors, tapestries and walnut wood walls – all recreated from remnant samples and historic photographs the crew used as reference. Among the most notable of the Kings’ quirks, he said, are the dozens of hand-sculpted anamorphic faces that will stare back at audience members while they enjoy one of 200 anticipated performances per year in the space.
“They’re everywhere,” said Martinez of the faces, as he, Heyman and David Anderson, president and CEO of ACE Theatrical Group, stood atop the still-unfinished mezzanine that fills the theatre’s need for a larger-than-life balcony. “We just keep finding them.”
The mezzanine overlooks a 32-foot stage that, come opening, will be accompanied by a two-story loading dock and lift for performance groups and stage handlers.
“There’s no bad seat in the house,” agreed the team, standing in place of soon-to-be brand new seating, one of the few finishing touches left on a new-and-improved Kings Theatre.
“This is an awesome asset for Brooklyn,” said Martinez, excited to cut the ribbon on the “entertainment palace,” early next year.
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