The Jewel of Flatbush: Tour the historic Kings Theatre this weekend

June 28, 2019 Scott Enman
Before and after the Kings Theatre restoration. Photo courtesy of The Kings Theatre
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Brooklynites will have the unique opportunity to explore the historical Kings Theatre on Saturday, on one of only three currently scheduled tours of the Jewel of Flatbush Avenue.

Attendees will receive unfettered access to the newly renovated theater, initially designed to resemble a faux palace at Versailles with elegant staircases, marble floors, mahogany trim and a lavish rouge grand drape.

Barbra Streisand called it “one of those grand old movie palaces” — and indeed it was. When it opened in 1929, it was Brooklyn’s third-largest movie house with 3,676 seats. It hosted Vaudeville acts, silent films and talking pictures.

In addition to walking around the beautiful building, patrons will be able to learn the history of the theater and the backstory of its transformation. All of the tour guides are from the theatre’s neighboring community.

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Inside the Kings Theatre. Eagile file photo by Rob Abruzzese
Inside the Kings Theatre. Eagle file photo by Rob Abruzzese

“Reliving the history of Kings as well as being a part of its present and future gives me a sense of pride knowing I’m continuing that history of being a pillar of Brooklyn,” said tour guide David Williams.

The 68,000-square-foot theater was seized by New York City for unpaid back property taxes and eventually closed in 1977. Its last film was about Bruce Lee.

For decades, it sat empty and fell into disrepair. Dust collected and the inside grew dilapidated from the elements.

A historical photo of The Kings Theatre. Photo courtesy of The Kings Theatre
A historical photo of The Kings Theatre. Photo courtesy of The Kings Theatre

In 2010, however, under the guidance of then Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the theater underwent a $95 million renovation thanks to a group of city, state and private entities, including the city’s Economic Development Corporation and the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Company.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 and reopened on Jan. 23, 2015, with the first performance starring Diana Ross on Feb 3.

“Brooklyn is a treasure box full of history and Kings Theatre is one of its brightest gems,” said tour guide Bil-Qis Coleman. “Being a part of its present is a gift. Being [part of] its future, gives me the chance to help it shine brighter. But being a voice to share its rich past is priceless. It’s history in the remaking.”

Tours will be given on June 29, July 20 and July 27. They start at 2 p.m. at 1027 Flatbush Ave. More tours are expected to be announced in August.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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