It is becoming a palace fit for Kings.
The completely renovated Loew’s Kings Theatre will reopen in January after nearly 40 years of neglect turned around by two years and $94-milllon worth of elbow grease.
And when audiences once again stream through the doors of the new Kings Theatre, they will get a taste of its former opulence, including a massive and ornately decorated lobby, seven chandeliers weighing about a ton each, and lush red carpeting.
“This was once the pride and joy of the neighborhood,” said Matt Wolf, the theater’s executive director. “I really think people are going to fall in love with it.”
Ace Theatrical Group made a deal with the city in 2012 to restore the theater, with half of the funding coming from taxpayers, and that deal authorized the group to operate the Kings for 55 years.
Wolf predicted an eclectic mix of programming at the Kings, saying he hopes to cater to the community as well as bringing in out-of-town acts to attract audiences from across the city. It will host community and faith-based events, musical acts spanning genres, and any entertainer who can fill its 3,000 — yes, 3,000 — seats, he said.
The picture palace opened its doors in 1929, just months before the stock market crash that set off the Great Depression. Movie-going was more of a high society experience then, Wolf said, and the theater reflected that, dressed to the nines with marble floors, walnut wood walls, and massive chandeliers modeled after those in Paris’s opera house and the Palace of Versailles.
A mainstay of Flatbush, it closed in 1977, and time was not kind to the shuttered movie house, leaving it a husk of its former self when construction began in January 2013.
Thieves had absconded with light fixtures, mildew had destroyed drapes, and water damage took its toll on much of the plaster work. But a surprising amount of the regal fitting remained in place, including much of the original walnut walls and marble floors. Still, renovations dragged on.
“It was in a bad state of decay,” said Wolf. “There was a hole in one side of the roof, and a section of the balcony had fallen.”
We reported in March that the theater was slated to reopen in November, but that has now been kicked back to the new year.
“Historical restoration is a complicated process,” Wolf said. “We want to preserve the original look and feel of the theater, but we are also updating and adding new fixtures.”
— with Carla Sinclair