Cinematic transitions: Brooklyn’s old theaters take new forms

Cinematic transitions: Brooklyn’s old theaters take new forms
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Flatbush’s Kings Theatre roared back to life this week, just days after news broke that Fort Greene’s Paramount Theatre is on track to reprise its role as a gilded performance hall after a half-century as a Long Island University gymnasium. But for every story like these — and they don’t come along very often — there are a dozen grand old theaters hiding in plain sight, having taken on new identities as rug shops, mega-churches, and Modell’s Sporting Goods stores. We at The Brooklyn Paper love an old theater, so we figured we’d take this opportunity to share a taste of some of the picture palaces that are hiding in plain sight, including two within a block or so of the Kings.

Plaza (later Flatbush Pavilion)

314 Flatbush Ave. between Carlton Avenue and Park Place

Built in: 1912

Closed in: 2004

Now houses: An American Apparel store

Fun fact: Originally known as the Bunny Theater after its founder, silent-film star John Bunny. It also did a stint as a porn theater.

Loew’s Oriental Theatre

1832 86th St. at Bay 19th Street in Bensonhurst

Built in: 1927

Known for: Its vaudeville performances and lavish, faux-Asian decor

Closed in: 1995

Now houses: A Marshalls department store

Fun fact: By the time it closed, the theater’s grand main room had been divided up twice. The 2,700-seat theater was split between its upper and lower levels in 1977, making it a two-screen operation, and in 1984 the balcony was again chopped in two, making it a triplex.

Albemarle Theatre

973 Flatbush Ave. at Albemarle Road

Built in: 1921

Closed in: 1984

Now houses: A Jehovah’s Witnesses hall

Fun fact: The marquee advertised the 1982 movie “Creepshow” for years after a fire damaged the theater and forced it to close.

Rialto Theatre

1085 Flatbush Ave. at Cortelyou Road

Built in: 1916

Closed in: 1976

Now houses: Cortelyou Road Church of God

Fun fact: During the era of silent movies, the theater employed a small orchestra and organist to accompany films and play during intermission.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhuro‌witz@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz