Wondering About the Loew’s Wonder Theater

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Almost exactly a year ago, the Economic Development Corporation put out a request for proposals for the redevelopment of the gargantuan, dilapidated Loew’s Kings theater in Flatbush. Since then, though, there’s been little news about plans for the property. The former “wonder theater” has been the subject of a number of failed revitalization schemes since it closed in 1977 (in 1999, for example, Magic Johnson signed up to turn it into a modern multiplex). In March, the EDC told the Times they’d received multiple bids for the theater and that the agency would try to move beyond the initial stage of the project sometime this spring (which, obviously, didn’t happen). We called the EDC a couple of times to ask about where the project stood but haven’t heard back. Any intel out there about what is—or isn’t—cooking?
A Chance to Bring Back an Old Brooklyn Gem [Brownstoner] GMAP
Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn; The Kings Is Dead! Long Live the Kings! [NY Times]

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  • I took a walk by there a few weeks ago. It’s absolutely astonishing that this place has been allowed to languish. The big sign (I think it said LOEW’S) out front has been welded off, but otherwise the facade is intact. This place is one of the great treasures of Brooklyn architectural history, like an early 20th century cathedral. I hope they keep it as a theater-performance space of some sort.

  • if this was in Park Slope or “bococa” or the like it would rot like this.

    hmmm…wonder why

  • maybe if that area wasn’t so ghetto, there would be more of an incentive to fix up the place..

    its isnt exactly a great location for indie/art films and the like, which i see as the only use for vintage theaters

  • Enjoyed many a flic there back in the day…
    would love to see this lovely old building brought back to its former glory…

  • Well, if they could preserve the original details, a multiplex is probably the only economically viable solution. Something like the Empire 25. Though it would be the most awesome art house theater ever, selling 3700 tickets would be a bit much. But why not make it a performing arts center, like Radio City, or the Beacon?

  • african dance/theater/art house?

  • Why would you refer to this area as ghetto? It is in a commercial/business district. No projects. No tenements. Single Family homes owned by hardworking people. Sears, Old Navy, Staples and a clean Stop ‘n Shop. All with free parking. Lots of foot traffic low crime along the Flatbush cooridor. Just because the businesses don’t cater to your needs doesn’t make it ghetto.
    If the theatre is restored and made sometype of cultural arts center people will come. Especially if its focus is the performing and visual arts of the African diaspora. Caribbean/African American/ Afro-Latino

  • 1910

    How ’bout something like the Brooklyn Lyceum or the Paul Robeson Theater?

  • How about an Apollo Theatre type space?

  • If they ripped off that ugly marquee, it would give great visibility for a Commerce Bank on the ground floor. I think a big box retailer like Target or Wal-Mart would fill out the rear ground floor and mezzanine nicely, and an 8-story glass addition replacing the rest of that crap on the upper levels would do nicely as luxury condos.

  • I don’t think this is a ghetto, but I can see why many, maybe even most, Americans would think so. It is a community of color, mostly immigrant, hard working but not terribly affluent. It is a far cry form the gentrified blocks of Fort greene or the hip regions of Williamsburg or DUMBO. There is still, even today, a great deal of diversity in brownstone Brooklyn. I for one think it is a good thing. And no, this would not be a great location for an artsy theater or cinema.

  • they should renovate this space and make it another success like Atlantic Terminal.

    Target, Daffy’s etc would be a great fit

  • Good response, 11:41.

    SOME people call anyplace without trendy baby boutiques selling $100 onesies, “ghetto”. Of course 5 years ago those people would have been moving to Connecticut, not Brooklyn. This ain’t the suburbs, people. Get over it. There’s going to be this thing called diversity here. Both racial and (the horror) economic diversity.

  • No to retail…it would be a tragedy to see the details inside gone.

  • why do people think Connecticut, Long Island, etc is ANYTHING like the yuppie neighborhoods we like/want in brooklyn?? (hey i’ll admit i’m a yuppie and have certain tastes)

    have u ever been out there? car-centric strip mall crap..

    im so tired of hearing “if u dont like discount chain stores targetting poor people, then go to the suburbs!”

    black, white….meet grey

  • how bout an american apparel?

  • To some people, any non white community is “ghetto”. Some people just can’t comprehend that all black and Latino people are anything but dirt poor, or are the creme de la creme who are stinking rich, who wouldn’t be in the community anyway. Newsflash – most people are middle class.

    Whatever comes into this space must preserve and restore all of that incredible detail. I don’t see Target or any chain doing that, it’s not their corporate thing. The best use for this is as a theatre and/or conference/community/museum space. Maybe it is a good thing to keep it locked tight until the right people come along. If funds could be procured to keep any other deterioration from happening, that may be the best use for it now. Not forever, just now.

    Right down the street is Erasmus HS, where many famous NYers graduated, including fabulously wealthy people like Barbra Streisand, among others. Maybe they could be persuaded to kick in some big bucks and do something to save and make use of this gem. It definitely shouldn’t be left to rot and fall in on itself.

  • I won’t say the diversity & the racial factors make it ghetto…I’d say it’s the frequent drug dealings and occasional gunshots that make it so. I’ve lived in Flatbush for over 15 years and it doesn’t bother me, but to many friends who come to visit it’s a real issue. And it wouldn’t matter who I were living amongst. Hearing helicopter searches above the apartment building doesn’t exactly make it Pleasantville but thats the way I live and I’m fine with it.

  • lets face it…poor black/latino folk have no taste and ruin everything they touch..including once beautiful neighborhoods

  • here comes the liberal white guilt…defending shitty neighborhoods so not to defend the “colored”

  • Maybe turn it into a police station?

    Or homeless shelter?

    Methadone Clinic??

  • We walked a good ways down Flatbush one day in that very area, and it was gritty, but we also found it very vibrant and interesting. People were completely polite and nice to us. Remember, just because something is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Plus if we’re complaining about bad tacky stores, that kind of blight applies to ALL of Flatbush from beginning to end, even where it runs right on past Park Slope at the Atlantic Center. At least NYC recognizes that now and has said they’ll improve Flatbush. Hopefully restoring this theater stays on their list of tasks to accomplish in that overall goal.

  • Fear of said black/Latino people, white flight, economic abandoment by city and industry, societal shift to the suburbs, racism, redlining, loss of jobs, drugs, hopelessness, crime, and countless other complicated and intertwined factors cause the run down of neighborhoods.

    In spite of all that, in even the worst neighborhood, which this is not, good people hold on and go about their business and raise good families who prosper and make change. It’s not as simple as 12:51′s stupid, racist statement, and he/she knows it.

  • The thread here is getting perilously close to racist in tone, rather than reflecting socio-economic differences. Shame on you!

  • poor people turn pretty things into ugly things

  • Responding to this said:

    “poor people turn pretty things into ugly things”

    It’s not merely the state of being low-income that causes neglect of properties, or causes crime or drug use. It’s hopelessness, it’s lack of pride, it’s lack of ambition and aspirational living. There’s just more of that in poor neighborhoods.

    Rich people with those problems and with mental illness neglect their houses too. See “Grey Gardens” documentary. Look at any of the abandoned neglected houses and buildings in Park Slope owned by disturbed people who will neither take care of them or let them go.

  • A similar grand theater on the Concourse in the Bronx has been turned into a Latino-themed entertainment venue, available for catering and other events as well. Don’t know how it’s doing.

    The best hope for this building is as a similar venue for entertainment from the non-Spanish speaking Carribean (reggae, ska, compas, etc).

  • Back to the Loew’s Kings, as a film historian, I’d love to see this place reopen as a movie palace. All of the Loew’s Wonder Theaters in the five boros have been restored, but none as working movie theaters. Instead they’re used as performing arts venues or churches. I completely understand that a movie theater cannot (and I’m talking anywhere in the city, barring the Ziegfield) make enough money on ticket revenue to support the upkeep of a venue this size (3,192 seats). Not to mention the initial costs of renovation. I’d be interested to see what sort of model has been used for the Loew’s Jersey renovation, though. They’ve successfully, through an all volumteer effort, restored a palace of this size. They show movies one weekend a month and rent it out the rest of the time, for concerts, weddings, meetings etc. Maybe it’s just my personal taste, but it saddens me that there are no truly grand place to see a movie in this city. It’s such a different experience than going to a multiplex or watching a DVD or going to a tiny arthouse. These theaters were designed to be places where communities could come out to see a movie and feel like they were going to the opera. They’re historic artifacts and using them for their intended purpose is a great way to bring that alive.

  • please don’t make it a target or bank or far worse wal-mart..this is a neighborhood so full of cultural, ethnic, racial, economical diversity…we would all welcome something that would bring something of substance,like a performing arts center, something that brings a community together…look at Dance Theater of Harlem … Ballet Hispanico.. even Brooklyn College …maybe we can start tying everything wonderful about Brooklyn, from the food to the music, through the people that support it, to the kids that need to be inspired…whether you live in park slope ,fort green, bushwick or flatbush, we have the need to be inspired and the responsibility to participate in fullfilling that need because it benefits all of us.

  • Something like the Senator Theater in Baltimore would be amazing…

  • I live nearby. No it’s not ghetto, just working class.

    I hope I am proved wrong, but I think it will be torn down eventually regardless of the City’s claims to restore it, just because of its location. One day it will be there, next day gone. There was a beautiful building on the corner of Ocean and Church. When the bank using the building closed, the building was bulldozed and a boring building put there. People who live there are busy and trying to get by; they aren’t concerned about preserving architecture.

  • I live a few blocks away and take exception to the poster calling it a ghetto. I’d prefer to stay on topic, however, and I’d also love to see it be restored as a movie palace. There are many groups in the neighborhood who could rent the facility for events such as concerts or religious gatherings too. When I lived in Milwaukee there was a wonderful old landmark theater that showed amazing films and had the best concerts. This is a real jewel of Brooklyn, I hope it doesn’t get demolished!

  • It is interesting to compare the Loews in Jersey City and the Loews in the Bronx. Two very different ways to approach restoration/preservation. The reno in Jersey is being done by volunteers–slowly, as it has been going on since 1993. (It had been sold to a developer, but the city ended up buying it.) The one in the Bronx was done by a developer–actually, two, since one guy put in about a million before selling it to the current owner.

    http://www.loewsjersey.org/

    http://www.theparadisetheater.com

  • As someone who lives in that neighborhood, I’d agree iwth the characterizations that say it’s “gritty” but also friendly and working-class, tending towards the lower working-class. It’s not the safest place in the world, but I certainly wouldn’t call it a ghetto.

    I’d also like to agree with folks who tends towards an arts/film center that focuses on the demographics of the neighborhood, which is mostly Caribbean and Latino. It would be great to have a kind of indoor version of the Celebrate Brooklyn concert series that takes place in Prospect Park during the summer. There series has a lot of reggae, jazz, Afro-influenced Latin music, dance groups like Ronald K. Brown.

    Of course, one of the great things about Celebrate Brooklyn is that it’s mostly free and I don’t see how that could happen with an indoor venue.

  • Film Historian at 2:29, the most successful model for reviving these kinds of old movie palace theaters is the Fox Theater in Atlanta. Gorgeous gorgeous. Very well attended by the people of Atlanta. I have seen both movies and rock bands there. It is also the venue for the ballet.

    http://www.foxtheatre.org/

    NYC would do well to bring on people from Fox Theater as an advisory board, for the Kings theater. Atlanta is a racially and economically diverse city too, just like Brooklyn.

  • Atlanta is still very segregated. The area around the Fox is still pretty shifty.

  • i live in PLG. As a preliminary matter, I understand the negative references to the area between PLG and Ditmas Park. It’s gritty and not particularly safe.

    That said, it has improved greatly in the last few years, and there are some very cute blocks.

    As to the Kings, I dont see anything economically viable. Does anyone think an “arts/film center that focuses on the demographics of the neighborhood” will make enough money to survive?

  • I continue to think some kind of music venue could be viable – with eclectic and varied booking of performances – it could work. In fact, I also think BAM should buy it and run it as a satellite space. It needs a creative solution, but hopefully something will be proposed.

  • How about a Design Within Reach?

  • It closed in ’77? Wow. I had my graduation there that June. As I recall, the movie on the marquee at the time was Exorcist 2: The Heretic. The interior didn’t make that much of an impression on me, though.

  • Exactly, 6:15pm. The area around the Fox Theater is gritty too. Which is what makes the Fox Theater similar to the Kings Theater. The Fox Theater IS successful enough financially, and has been since the 80′s when the surrounding neighborhood was even worse! If it’s planned well and done right, the Kings could succeed as an arts, music and film venue. They could at least form an advisory board of people who have done this before, and explore it. And that doesn’t mean leaving it to NYC to figure it out, since they’re the ones who screwed up with the Kings in the first place.

  • i grew up in ATL, and I’m not convinced that the comparisons between the kings and the Fox are accurate.

    As a preliminary matter, I hope I’m wrong because the Fox is beautiful. It’s one of the best theaters i’ve ever been in for concerts, etc.

    First, the area around the Fox is very mixed. There are several fancy residential buildings that have come into their own the last few years (like the Georgian). Also, Ga Tech is within walking distance. The neighborhood around the Kings is worse, although it is also improving.

    Even accepting that the neighborhood around the fox is gritty, people are willing to come to the Fox b/c its the city center. Kings has to compete w/ all of the island of Manhattan. Tour productions of Broadway shows often fill the Fox. Unfortunately, the Kings has to compete with the real thing.

  • All true, but after AY and even more congestion is created on subways and streets leading from Brooklyn to Manhattan, people in Brooklyn will want to stay in Brooklyn for their entertainment. I mean, Madison Square Garden? Bleccchhhh.

  • Oh and returning home late at night from Manhattan – it gets worse every year! The bridges are PACKED with cabs in a slow crawl over the bridges. The other option is to wait for an eternity for a subway after 11pm. It’s intolerable.

  • in the future, i agree. But so long as the neighborhood around Kings is “lower middle class” or ghetto depending on your opinion, I dont think it will be able to support anything.

  • The Daily News is working on an article on the Loew’s Kings – hopefully it will contain some good news.

    Here’s a video about the Loew’s Kings:
    http://www.planetplg.com/docs/LoewsKings.mp4

    and a page with background info:
    http://www.planetplg.com/loews.htm

    This is a true Brooklyn treasure that must be restored.

  • The You Tube version of the same Loew’s Kings video:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/LoewsManDCP

  • to those who say “poor people ruin everything they touch”:

    i’m not so sure that is exclusive to poor people. there are many rich developers and people who have bulldozed lovely buildings to put up a crappy “box o’ concrete”. they’ve also pushed things such as the Atlantic Yards Project that will adversely destroy the character of nearby neighborhoods.

    i was in harlem the other day and there are blocks after blocks of beautifully preserved old buildings… as well as some dilapidated ones. however, people are so willing to live in manhattan, that there are tons of people buying up even the worst condition buildings and fixing them up with attention to detail. i see so much BAD reconstruction here… (brick facades on houses that were once wood porches) with tacky silver/brass fences. not to mention, the new contstruction is just horrible, other than the meier building and a few new buildings in downtown brooklyn.

  • Make it the new Hustler Club Brooklyn.

  • Thing is, Slick at 7:15, the city has to fix the Kings NOW because it is literally going to fall apart by the time someone decides the neighborhood could support an arts venue there. Plus one would hope the city would see its job as contributing to the improvement to that area, not waiting for it to happen first then jumping on the bandwagon. The city should be willing to take on that risk.

  • Why didn’t the brooklyn Tabernacle take over this place instead of building a new place?

    They clared the lot next to it…what are they going to do with that?

  • I live a couple blocks from the theater and it is a nice family area with very quaint residential blocks, lots of people getting up for work or school early in the morning, and loads of church goers on Sunday. It is mostly Caribbean – Im one of the only white people in the area. I feel safe here and catch no hard stares from anybody. Granted, a few things have happened in the month Ive lived here, like someone trying to break into my place, I’ve seen four people peeing in the street in the day time, and a store has been robbed. Also, the Compstats are not encouraging, but this area is at the very end of a police precinct that includes part of Brownsville and the rest of Flatbush. Looking the other way, the area is buttressed by Kensington to the North(ish), Ditmas Park to the West, and Brooklyn College to the South.

  • make it an ultimate fighting venue