Upon its inception in 1929, the Loew’s Kings Theatre was one of the most exquisite theatres in the nation. Originally designed by architectural masters Rapp & Rapp with interior design by Harold W. Rambusch, the theatre was truly an ornate spectacle for the masses. As one of the five original “Loew’s Wonder Theatres,” the Kings was originally ordained a movie and live performance theatre of epic proportion. It officially opened its doors to the public September 7th, 1929 with the screening of Evangeline, accompanied by on stage performances from Wesley Eddy & His Kings of Syncopation, The Chester Hales Girls, and Frills and Fancies. The Loew’s Kings Theatre would become the epicenter of cinema and live performance in the thriving Brooklyn arts and shopping district along Flatbush Avenue.
Decline & Closing
With the depression and the decline of vaudeville in the early 1930s, the theatre converted to showing only feature films. From the 1950s through the mid-1970s, the Loew’s Kings Theatre faced a steady decline. With the onset of multiplexes, it was nearly impossible for the Kings to compete with only a single screen in its arsenal. It was passed over for many blockbusters, instead showing mostly kung-fu and B-Horror movies, which were incapable of drawing the massive audiences necessary to sustain the theatre. Due to low attendance, high maintenance costs, and the decline of the surrounding neighborhood, Loew’s dropped the Kings Theatre. It officially closed its doors on August 30th, 1977 and sat shuttered for more than 37 years.
In September 2006, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) in cooperation with the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for the reformation of the historic Loew’s Kings Theatre. The NYCEDC utilized a variety of criteria to evaluate the responses such as: return on investment to the city and surrounding community, financial feasibility, development team’s qualifications, design (high performance, green building, and sustainability), and the respondent’s satisfaction of development guidelines.
In March 2008, the NYCEDC in collaboration with Marty Markowitz issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a developer and operator of the former Loew’s Kings Theatre. With respect to the NYCEDC’s evaluation criteria, it was required that the redevelopment thoroughly rehabilitate and reuse the theatre building, be economically plausible, and maintain certain aspects of the theatre’s architectural features.
On February 3rd, 2010, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz announced that ACE Theatrical Group, LLC was selected and contracted as the developer for the monumental restoration of the newly named Kings Theatre. The Houston, Texas based theatrical management and development company was selected to completely restore the historic theatre to a state reminiscent of its original architecture that will be able to accommodate modern shows through its expanded stage house. ACE Theatrical Group will also operate the Kings Theatre as a premier performing arts venue, reestablishing it as the prominent live performance establishment that Brooklyn aesthetically has to offer.
On January 23rd, 2013, following the immense preliminary work undertaken by ACE Theatrical Group, a fifty-five year lease with The Kings Theatre Redevelopment Corporation, was executed to commence the redevelopment of the storied Kings Theatre. Martinez + Johnson Architecture based in Washington, D.C., was selected as the architectural firm for the ineffable restoration project. Their award-winning restorations across the country have established them as the preeminent architectural firm of landmark theatres. The Kings Theatre restoration was financed through funding from the City of New York, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and United Fund Advisors. Restoration of the iconic Kings Theatre will re-establish the paramount architectural structure, enhance economic development through extensive job creation, and will provide a wide variety of entertainment programming that will serve the vibrant and diverse communities comprising Brooklyn.
Today, the $95 million project features an authentic restoration of the original 1929 design. Original plaster and painting schemes have been restored, vintage carpet and seating have been recreated and historic lighting fixtures have been renovated and re-installed. New state-of-the-art building systems, including new HVAC, expanded patron restrooms and concessions facilities will provide the very finest in patron comfort. Technical improvements including expanded staging facilities, a new theatre rigging system, new dressing rooms and professional sound and lighting systems, will ensure that the Kings will be able to host the very finest performing arts attractions. Once renovations are complete, the transcendent theatre will host hundreds of performances annually.
The restoration of this former movie palace marks the rebirth of an historic venue, and a transformation into a state-of-the-art live performances theatre that will revitalize the Brooklyn arts scene, and provide and economic stimulus to the Flatbush Avenue business district, and the region beyond.