It’s a modern-day renaissance.
Local dignitaries gathered in the soon-to-be concession area of the newly renovated Kings Theatre on Friday, January 23 to mark the official reopening of the decades-shuttered space with the cutting of one giant, golden ribbon, reminiscent of its larger-than-life, gold-painted ceilings.
Originally constructed in 1929, the Kings Theatre – the largest of its kind in Brooklyn – will seat more than 3,000 people at more than 200 annual performances, serving not only as a fixture in the city’s cultural landscape but also as an economic engine for the Flatbush area.
“Generations of Brooklynites called the Kings Theatre the cornerstone of their community,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Kyle Kimball, “so it has been a unique honor for us and our partners to restore this piece of Brooklyn’s rich cultural heritage to its former glory.”
The 85-year-old theatre, designed by Rapp and Rapp and inspired by both the Paris Opera House and France’s Palace of Versailles, closed in 1977 (after one final showing of the film “Islands in the Stream”) and was acquired by the city in 1983, then lay dormant for the next 25 years. Spurred by then-Borough President Marty Markowitz in 2008, the NYCEDC began an extensive search for someone to revive the theatre’s pulse.
Chosen in 2009, the Kings Theatre Redevelopment Company – an alliance made up of ACE Theatrical Group, the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group, and the National Development Council – spent the next four years bringing the $95 million renovation home.
Its debut came two years to the day after developers broke ground.
“Today marks a milestone for the Flatbush community,” said New York City Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, calling the city’s multi-million dollar investment in the playhouse’s revival about much more than restoration. “It is about supporting the creation of local jobs, new traffic for area small businesses, and developing new state-of-the-art space for the community to gather.”
Borough President Eric Adams agreed, noting that, if you compared its restoration to the reboot of a once-great basketball team looking for a new front-runner, the Kings Theatre would be Lebron James.
“Brooklyn, the County of Kings, has cleaned off its crown jewel, and it’s called the Kings Theatre,” said Adams. “What’s going to happen here is like the old-fashioned dance the two-step; one step into the past . . . and one step into the future.”
Features of the newly restored Kings Theatre include an expansion of the original theatre footprint from approximately 83,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet, as well as an enlarged modernized stagehouse, dressing and loading areas, and upgraded lighting and sound accommodations.
Drawing from the past, the venue also houses restored and recreated décor including the Kings’ original chandeliers, lighting fixtures and salon furniture (some of which developers say was donated back by the last living usher of the original concert hall), as well as new carpeting, tapestries, curtains and tassels – all created from remnant samples and historic photographs.
With exactly 3,250 seats – more than three rows of them draped with crests to signify “VIP” club member seating – there are 400 fewer than the original floorplan, something developer Neil Heyman attributed to an experience-friendly design.
Even the “worst view in the house,” he joked, is a good one.
“It was an art project as much as it was a construction project,” Heyman said, adding that, during construction, crews found a little bit of life even in the most eroded corridors of the building which had fallen into complete disrepair.
“We found a love letter in the wall,” he told press on a guided tour of the finished product adding that, while both the letter’s “to” and “from” were no longer living, the development team was able to track down the recipient’s niece. “There’s a lot of life in the theater and it just continues to grow.”
Markowitz compared the renovation to a rebirth, not just for Flatbush, but for all of the borough.
“The renovation and reopening of the Kings Theatre defines the renaissance that Brooklyn is celebrating,” said the former BP and current vice president of borough promotion and engagement for NYC & Company.
The Kings Theatre – located at 1027 Flatbush Avenue – will welcome international superstar Diana Ross for its inaugural concert, an already sold-out show set for Tuesday, February 3.