During the golden age of cinema in the early 20th century, it wasn’t uncommon to find multiple theaters within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. In these palaces of entertainment, Brooklynites could see motion picture shows with the accompaniment of an orchestra or a bellowing organ, as well as live vaudeville performances. As the century progressed, however, trips to the movies began to decline and these once-grand theaters struggled to survive. Here, we take a look at the architectural remnants of the forgotten theaters of Brooklyn, former houses of entertainment that now serve as grocery stores, pharmacies, gyms, and other purposes. In this list, we’re focusing on the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Sunset Park.
Some of these sites will be stops on our upcoming Untapped New York Insider tour of the Lost Theaters of Bay Ridge with Daniel Pecoraro on March 5th and March 11th. This tour is free for Untapped New York Insiders! Not an Insider yet? Become a member today and get one month free with code JOINUS.
Lost Theaters of Bay Ridge
1. Bay Ridge Theater, Bay Ridge
The Bay Ridge Theater had a gala opening on December 28th, 1915. The borough president took to the stage to dedicate the new theater to the people of Bay Ridge “as a temple of entertainment.” Standing on 3rd Avenue between 71st and 72nd Streets, the theater showed films and hosted vaudeville acts.
After the theater closed in 1959, it spent many years as a BINGO house. Later, it was converted into retail space. Today, there is a mix of businesses in the building including a Rite Aid pharmacy and a McDonald’s. The building itself maintains its exterior grandeur, with large arched windows, Ionic pilasters, and a dentil cornice.