In September, 1929, the grand and extravagant Kings Theatre—one of Loew’s “Wonder Theaters”—opened its doors in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Designed by Rapp & Rapp, the palatial space hosted vaudeville shows, and later films, inside a grand auditorium that could seat more than 3,000 people. With its ornate plasterwork, soaring ceilings, and two-thousand-pound chandeliers, the Kings Theatre was intended to have all the detail and elegance of Versailles. And it did, until the 1970s when the curtain fell at Kings. The once bustling venue stayed dark for the next 37 years.
But now, after a two-year, $93 million renovation, the Kings Theatre is slated to start its second act this January. Washington, D.C.–based architecture firm Martinez+Johnson is leading the transformation with meticulous precision and attention to every detail in the 93,000-square-foot space.
To return the theater to its original glory, the team looked through old newspaper articles, photos, and playbills to get a sense of the space at its prime. They salvaged everything that they could and painstakingly recreated everything they could not. When a section of wood in the foyer was damaged beyond repair, it was replaced with a new piece, taken from the same type of wood.
But before any plaster could be restored, or paint retouched, the long-abandoned Kings had to be structurally secured. “Some of the damage came from vandalism,” said Gary Martinez, president of Martinez+Johnson, on a recent tour of the theater, “mother nature took care of the rest.” A new roof had to be installed and recreations of all that was ripped out had to be brought back in.
The theater also had to be transformed into a 21st century performing arts venue. This meant altering the seating rake for better sightlines, installing state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems, adding a new ventilation system, and installing new bathrooms, concessions, loading docks, and dressing rooms. And the entire space had to be made ADA compliant.
When the restoration is complete, Kings Theatre will be the third largest theatre in the city.