People's Cinema

781 Saratoga Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11212

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Additional Info

Architects: Joseph M. Berlinger

Functions: Supermarket

Previous Names: Bluebird Theatre, People's Theatre

Nearby Theaters

People's Cinema

Located on the southwest corner of Saratoga Avenue & Livonia Avenue, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. The Bluebird Theatre was opened in January 1931. It was equipped with a Kimball organ. In 1935, it was converted into a synagogue, but reopened on January 29, 1937 as the People’s Theatre. In the 1930’s a movie executive made the observation that if producers wanted to send a message they should use Western Union. This was prompted by a trend of movies with a social message.

In the New York City area a few theatres specialized in movies with a left wing “progressive” slant. Some were made in Soviet Russia. The most notable one was located in Manhattan near Union Square where Soviet newsreels as well as pictures by Sergi Eisenstein could be seen.

In the Brownsville section of Brooklyn there was the People’s Cinema. It was located at Saratoga and Livonia Avenues. The people in the neighborhood tended to vote for more radical candidates in elections and so it would seem that this type of program was some what popular locally. It was definitely not a big draw in other areas of Brooklyn.

It closed in 1954, and in October 1954 was sold and converted into a Food King Supermarket. In 2011, a Fine Fare supermarket operates on the site.

Contributed by J.F. Lundy

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

creativa on December 23, 2005 at 7:52 pm

The radical cinema near Union Square was called The Irving Theater – it was on Irving Place – showed Russian flicks, but also European films like The Last Waltz with Louise Rainer – I used to pass it every weekend during the years I attended Yiddish High School ( mitlshul) held at Washington Irving High School.

Sylvia Schildt

hdl37 on March 21, 2006 at 3:33 pm

I spent many Sat afternoons at peoples cinema. 2-movies + a western+15 cartoons+achapter+newsreel+ stale candy bars + a mean matron that had a limp or a problem with her arm, she carried a flashlight and we drove her crazy.
I lived on Strauss St at Sutter ave



Gerald A. DeLuca
Gerald A. DeLuca on March 21, 2006 at 7:20 pm

Herbie, this bit you wrote about the matron is amazing, because we had a similar mean matron with a limp and a flashlight and whom we drove crazy. It was the Johnston Theatre in Johnston, RI, and I wrote about her two years ago in the first post on this page.

hdl37 on March 21, 2006 at 7:33 pm

I live in NJ, about 45 miles from Brownsville. My Wife was a teacher

at PS268 Clarkson and E.53 st from 1987-2002

I still use a dentist on Ralph ave and Glenwood Rd

I never go to Brownsville, now Ocean Hill Brownsville.

But when I enter Brooklyn I feel I have returned home.

BUT it has changed for the very worse.

Theaterat on December 13, 2007 at 2:16 am

RE Peoples Cinema. My English professor grew vup in this neighborhood.His parents were socialists who supported “Uncle Joe” in the 1930s and became full fledged communists after WWII.He had some memories of his parents saying that they used to see Soviet made films there in the 30s and early 40s.By the time he was about 9 or 10 in the late 40s, the theater changed its policy and started to show more mainstream Hollywood and foreign films. He said this neighborhood had many Jewish intelluctials and Bohemian types and others who supported leftist activities. He says the theater went mainstream probably due to the fear of the then current “red scare' that came right after WWII.He also remembered pro Julius and Ethel Rosenberg demonstrations that were held here after they were convicted of giving the Soviets infomation on the nuclear bomb in the early 50s.

jflundy on January 17, 2008 at 6:21 pm

/theaters/11996/ links to the CT page of the Irving Place Theater which Sylvia Schildt identifies as the theater near Union Square where Soviet and other radical films were screened at times in the 1930’s and 40’s. Lost Memory links to an excellent NYPL photo of the theater taken 1n 1938 on that page.

jflundy on July 29, 2009 at 1:40 am

View link

This photo link to Brooklyn Pix shows the People’s Cinema some sixty years ago, courtesy of Warren.

jflundy on August 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm

On September 23, 1937, “The Golem”, in Yiddish with English sub- titles and starring Harry Baur was playing its last day at the People’s Cinema. In the Bronx, it was playing out its last week at the Ascot at 183rd on the Concourse.

Willburg145 on October 5, 2012 at 9:46 pm

What is the elevated train line?

Turnbill on September 24, 2015 at 7:47 am

Elevated train is the New Lots Avenue branch of the IRT. When I lived nearby in Brownsville (‘51 – '57), the People’s Cinema was the low end of the triumvirate of Loew’s Pitkin, Ambassador and People’s Cinema. Really rundown. Don’t remember any “leftie” movies. I do remember a 5-cents soda machine that had four flavors. If you pushed all four buttons at once, you’d get “tutti frutti.” The building was converted, ca. 1955, to Fairmont Foods, the neighborhood’s first superette. An actor playing the TV character Rocky Jones was present for the opening.

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