Yes, there’s been a sad trend lately in which beloved live venues shut down because of lease problems and rent hikes–the latest casualty being Glasslands in Williamsburg. There is however, a flip side to all that. As The New York Times recently reported, the historic Kings Theatre, a once-grand movie palace located in Flatbush that has been closed for nearly 40 years, is making a comeback. On Feb. 3, the Kings Theatre will reopen with an already sold-out inaugural concert by Diana Ross. and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held this Friday, Jan. 23, followed by a free performance on Jan. 27 featuring the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and the Brooklyn Ballet. (Scroll down for a full list of scheduled performances.)
There’s been a good deal of ink devoted to the city’s nearly $95 million restoration of the theatre–but what kind of venue will this be? With 3,000 seats it’s nearly a third bigger than BAM’s 2,090-seat Howard Gilman Opera House. (For further reference, there are about 18,000 seats at Barclays Center, though not all are in use during musical performances due to the dead zone behind the stage.) The theatre has been restored to its original color palette and the carpeting and light fixtures that once lined its aisles and walls have been recreated. The venue has also been upgraded for the 21st century with the expansion of the theatre’s footprint from 86,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet–along with improved sight lines, lighting and acoustics. While the architectural elements are all vintage or painstaking recreations, the sound and lighting systems and backstage facilities for staging productions are all state-of-the-art, and designed to attract world-class performers.
The Houston-based firm ACE Theatrical Group, which recently restored the historic Saenger Theatre in New Orleans, will operate Kings Theatre. Like Saenger, which has a similar capacity and presents everyone from Dave Chappelle to John Mellencamp, Kings is slated to host 200-250 major productions a year from mostly mainstream artists. Kings may never approach the cultural juggernaut that is BAM and its tone-setting, ahead-of-the-curve programming, but the early line-up is an eclectic mix of music, theatre and dance, with a healthy dose of family-oriented shows and dancehall music that to us, reflects the diversity of Flatbush, and of Brooklyn. Echoing that, David Anderson, the president and CEO of Ace said in a press release that the Kings “…will once again be at the center of Brooklyn’s cultural fabric—presenting programming that is reflective of Brooklyn’s diverse communities and providing a resource to foster and support creativity in the area.”
In its heyday, the palatial Kings Theatre presented movies and live events. It opened on Sept. 7, 1929, with a screening of the film Evangeline starring Dolores Del Rio, along with performances by Wesley Eddy & His Kings of Syncopation, the Chester Hales Girls, and Frills and Fancies. But over the decades, this elegant single-screen venue entered a period of decline with the demise of vaudeville and its inability to compete with movie multiplexes. Faced with dwindling audiences, the Kings finally shut down in 1977. The city seized the theatre for back taxes in the early ’80s, and then launched plans to rehabilitate the venue in 2006. Nearly 10 years later, Kings Theatre has now been restored to its old glory.
Like the arrival of the Barclays Center, the revival of the Kings Theatre, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Place, is another indication of Brooklyn chipping away at Manhattan’s status as the ultimate destination for entertainment. The project is part of a larger effort to bring new businesses and opportunities to the neighborhood–as Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams told The Times, “It’s going to revitalize Flatbush Avenue.”
Here’s a rundown of events at Kings Theatre that are on sale now, more are sure to follow.
The iconic diva from the Motown-era and beyond kicks off the theater’s grand reopening. (Sold out)
The Canadian singer and founder of the Lilith Fair makes a return to the city in support of her most recent album Shine On.
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
Still riding high from the success of the hit Broadway musical Jersey Boys, Valli and the gang will undoubtedly play the classic hits from the ’60s and ’70s like “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “December 1963 (Oh What a Night)” and many others.
Dancehall Rising starring Mavado & Capleton
A night of Jamaican dancehall and reggae will test whether you can get down at Kings Theatre.
Southern roots rock is coming to the Big Apple courtesy of the popular jam band from Georgia.
Crosby, Stills & Nash
The famous supergroup of the late ’60s will play two nights.
The legendary frontwoman for the Pips makes an appearance in Brooklyn.
June 20, 2015
Tales from the Silk Cotton Tree
Dec. 5, 2015
Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker
The Kings Theatre, which will open on Feb. 3, is located on 1027 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn.