The lights on the Loew’s Kings Theater’s marquee have been dark for over 35 years since the last showing of Islands in the Stream in 1977. In fact, the entire king-size, 3,200-seat, French-Baroque movie palace is looking quite dim these days, much of its ornate plasterwork worn, damaged, or missing from years of decay and neglect and its terra-cotta facade in need of cleaning. City officials had to string ropes of temporary construction lights through the still grandiose, if a little shabby, lobby, just to make the announcement on Wednesday that Brooklyn’s largest indoor theater is coming back to life in a big way thanks to $93.9 million in new investment from public and private sources.
Built in 1929, Chicago-based firm Rapp & Rapp‘s design of Loew’s Kings Theater was inspired by the Paris Opera House, its lobby featuring a flowing mahogany and marble staircase even Charles Garnier could admire. Loew’s Kings is one of the five decadently ornate “Wonder Theaters” built around New York City, representing the theater-operator’s flagship venues and designed in eclectic styles from Cambodian Neo-Classical to Rococo and Atmospheric villa courtyards. (Be sure to check out AN‘s photos of the theater from our tour in 2011.)
It was at the foot of the Kings’ grand staircase that Mayor Bloomberg joined other city officials to announce the groundbreaking of the restoration effort, which is expected to return to theater to its original glory and open it to performances by 2014.
The city has owned the theater since 1983, when it was seized in lieu of tazxes. Over the years, the roof has been sealed up and some structural problems fixed—just enough to keep the building mothballed for future restoration. In response to a 2008 RFP, Houston-based ACE Theatrical Group was selected by the NYC Economic Development Corporation to refurbish the theater. ACE has previously restored other historic theaters, including the Boston Opera House and the noteworthy Chicago Theater, also designed by Rapp & Rapp. The company has been working to restore the Kings’ interior for several years now, but with a new 55-year lease granted to the Kings Theater Redevelopment Corporation, a consortium including ACE, Goldman Sachs, and the National Development Council, full-scale restoration can begin.
Plans call for expanding the facility from 68,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet to accommodate a larger back-stage area for live performances. When it opens in 2014, Loew’s Kings Theater (1027 Flatbush Avenue) is expected to show 200 to 250 events per year, contributing to an overall resurgence of Flatbush Brooklyn.