The Extraordinary Restoration Of A 1920s Temple Of Cinema

A little over a year ago, I visited the restoration of the run-down King’s Theatre in Brooklyn. Its moldy walls were being gutted, and what remained intact was being made into molds. The entire main stage and audience seating was filled with scaffolding. But today, fast approaching its deadline, the theatre is coming together — and it’s grand.

Kings Theatre, which was built in the 1920s, was once the epitome of glamor and show business. It laid in shambles for the past 40 years after a slow decline — but over the past year, it’s been resuscitated by a crew of dedicated craftsmen and workers.

I stopped by the construction site to see what progress had been made since my last visit. All the main entrance’s ceilings are exactly as I remember, ornamented in gold and complicated filigree. But besides them, everything had changed (except for the construction itself, of course). The original bathrooms were removed, a basement was repurposed for modern amenities, railings now finished in metal. It’s an entirely new building, living with the framework of the old.

The main amphitheater was where the progress stood out most. The last time I was here, there was what they called a “scaffold-jungle.” Now, all the scaffolding was removed and seating was being installed. I could see the amphitheater ceiling and incredibly detailed walls. It made the rest of the theatre look drab.

New draperies were already being hung and period-accurate light fixtures installed. The new fixtures worked wonders in bringing the walls back to life. The textures and style of the wall is one thing — but without the right lights, they don’t have the same effect.

While I was there, the crew inside worked on restoring an unbelievably ornate nook that was completely deteriorated when the restoration started. In order to bring it back to life, molds on the nook across from it were made and it was built from scratch:

Crews worked placing the seating in as well. One worker marked where arms of the chairs would go in the ground while others fastened backs and seats to it.

On track to open by the end of the year, the theatre as a whole still looks like it has a long long way to go. But if you focus on the details a corner or section at a time, it’s not hard to image what this grand old space will look like once it’s finished, restored to its former glory.