News of the planned renovation of the Loew's (pronounced LOWees in this part of the world) Kings Theater on Flatbush Avenue sent us scurrying to our files for Loew's ephemera. And, given the sad history of the theater over the past thirty years, it caused us to think a little about the tenuous nature of plans, and their tendency to turn into something other than reality. One could be forgiven for greeting the announcement of a planned $70 million cash infusion with more than a little scepticism--after all, we heard it all before, and more than once.
After the Kings went dark, the Amsterdam News on July 1, 1978 reported that Community Development funds would be funneled into the acquisition and renovation of the theatre, "to provide cultural facilities and attract private investors for commercial development." But by 1980 that plan was scuttled. A scaled-down version put forward in 1981 also bit the dust. Theatre lovers and preservationists never gave up, but it seems they had a hard row to plow. Between 1987 and 1992 funds from Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden allowed for a roof renovation, but according to the New York Times, the estimate for complete restoration of the theater in 1996 was about $10 million.
In 1992 New York Newsday reported that "several community groups and Nakash Brothers Realty are working together to restore the Loew's Kings to its former glory." Plans mooted at this time included "a 3,200 seat theater, a 500-seat restaurant, a catering hall, a health spa, a hotel with convention facilities, and the first wax museum exclusively featuring international black leaders." Once more the ideas all came to nought. Enter stage left Magic Johnson in 1998, when hopes were raised that the star point guard would infuse new life into the dormant husk, but once again the movie palace only fell into deeper disrepair.
A recent New York Times article asserts confidently that this time, "...it's for real. A developer has signed an agreement, made a down payment on a $70 million renovation and plans to turn the building back into a functioning entertainment site."
So in celebration of what appears to be a sure thing, here are three scans from the Loew's Kings Inaugural program. On Saturday September 7th, 1929, the evening began with the Star Spangled Banner. There followed a "Divertissement Musicale" played by the Loew's Kings orchestra; a Dedication trailer and a Movietone greeting by MGM stars; an organ solo feature; a stage presentation called "Frills and Fancies"; and then Wesley Eddie and his Kings of Syncopation with the real Dolores Del Rio, in person, and the Chester Hale Girls. The feature presentation was the United Artists picture, "Evangeline," starring that same Dolores Del Rio, this time the illusory version, in celluloid.