Eighty-three years after it first opened, Brooklyn’s beloved movie palace, the Loew’s Kings, is poised for rebirth.
The gracious old theater, which had fallen into a state of disrepair after closing in 1977, will be renovated with careful attention paid to its numerous aesthetic and historical details.
A ceremonial groundbreaking kicked off the start of the restoration on Wednesday, January 23. The theater, on Flatbush Avenue near Duryea Place, is expected to reopen toward the end of 2014.
Once the renovation is complete, the 3,200-seat theater – whose architectural details bring to mind such renowned structures as the Palace of Versailles and the Paris Opera — will be utilized largely for live performances, rather than as a cinema. It will be run by the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Corporation, a consortium of Ace Theatrical Group (the organization doing the renovation) with Goldman Sachs and the National Development Council, which has a 55-year lease on the property. Some 200 to 250 performances are expected to be held each year at the renovated theater.
“Once the largest and grandest indoor venue in Brooklyn, Loew’s Kings Theatre was a major attraction for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and countless visitors,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was present for the groundbreaking. “Soon it will be again. This massive restoration project will be great for the Flatbush community, for Brooklyn’s booming cultural scene, for local artists and cultural groups, and for New York City.”
Borough President Marty Markowitz concurred. “Restoring the glory of the Loew’s Kings Theatre into a combination of the Beacon and the Apollo all rolled into one has long been a dream of mine and the Flatbush community—and now it is time for the theater’s triumphant ‘encore,’” he said.
“Not only will the new facility be the largest indoor theater in the borough—hosting everything from concerts and plays to special events and graduation ceremonies—it will be an engine of economic growth along Flatbush Avenue and for all of Central Brooklyn,” Markowitz went on. “The Loew’s Kings Theatre will play a leading role in the arts’ next great act, right here on Brooklyn’s big stage.”
The restoration has been in the works for several years. After previous efforts to restore the theater had stalled, in 2008, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) began seeking someone to bring the theater – which the city had acquired in 1983 — back to life.
ACE was chosen in 2009 and spent the next three years drawing up plans for the $93.9 million project, which not only will enlarge and transform the space to make it usable for live performances, but also will keep intact its numerous details, a requirement of the Request for Proposal issued by EDC.
The impending restoration, which will start in earnest within days, “will accomplish three important goals,” said David Anderson, ACE’s president and CEO. “The project: it will rescue and restore an important architectural masterpiece for future generations to enjoy; it will create jobs and re-energize neighborhoods; and it will provide a broad range of entertainment programming, serving the vibrant and diverse communities which comprise Brooklyn.”