RKO Keith's Theatre

135-35 Northern Boulevard,
Flushing, NY 11354

Unfavorite 51 people favorited this theater

RKO Keith's Theatre

Once one of the most celebrated movie palaces of New York City, the RKO Keith’s Theatre in the Flushing section of Queens, became only a ghost of its former self. It was designed by noted theatre architect Thomas White Lamb who made a rare excursion into the Atmospheric style of theatre buildings. The exterior was quite plain, but once inside it displayed a magnificent blend of Moorish and Spanish Baroque styles. The Grand Foyer contained a central fountain which contained goldfish and the plain blue colored auditorium ceiling containing twinkling ‘stars’.

Opened as the Keith-Albee Theatre on December 25, 1928 with Clara Bow in “Three Week Ends” and a Pathe News on the screen, there was Keith-Albee vaudeville on stage. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 3 manual 15 ranks organ. Over the years many top named artistes appeared on the stage, including: Bob Hope, Jack Benny, The Marx Brothers, Judy Garland, Mae West, Milton Berle, The Inkspots, Jimmy Durante & Jerry Lewis. In 1969 the Wurlitzer organ was donated to the College of the Ozarks.

It was closed on March 15, 1975 for conversion into a triple-screen theatre. It reopened with one screen operating on February 11, 1976 and the other two screens opened on April 7, 1976 with Robert De Nero in “Taxi Driver”, Goldie Hawn in “The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox” & Albert Finney in “Murder of the Orient Express plus "Jack Nicholson in "Chinatown” . Legend has it, in 1986, after almost sixty years of showing movies, the theatre was closed on September 4, 1986 with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Night of the Creeps” & Gregory Hines in “Running Scared”. The building had been sold. Soon after, its owner attempted to demolish it before a hearing could be held to decide its fate.

Having already damaged its famous façade and with work commencing to gut the theatre, the demolition was halted by the city. The owner soon forfeited the property, and the damaged and stripped RKO Keith’s Theatre then sat and waited its fate.

Several plans have come and gone to convert the building into apartments, but it sat vacant for 35 years, some enthusiasts hoping that at least something could be saved. It was not to be, as the auditorium and front of the building were demolished in summer of 2021. The lobby (which is protected) has been saved to be incorporated into the new building on the site.

Contributed by Ross Melnick, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 1,330 comments)

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on October 21, 2021 at 7:51 pm

Ed, you’re a cockeyed optimist

WilliamMcQuade on October 21, 2021 at 8:20 pm

Ed. Loews Wonder Theaters. Paradise Bx Currently closed 175th St NYC Now a church Jersey Operates part time showing classic movies Queens Valencia Now a church ..Open for services Brooklyn Kings. Currently closed Open sporadically for live shows. Stanley Jersey City Jehovah’s Witnesses temple. Open for services 42nd St theaters not picture palaces .Neither are legit theaters Beacon Open for live shows and Hellinger now a church .A far cry from what we once had

JeffM55 on October 21, 2021 at 8:44 pm

Gentlemen, gentlemen… no use beating a dead horse. Or a bunch of dead theaters.

WilliamMcQuade on October 21, 2021 at 8:50 pm

Jeff. For 3 months nothing said Now we restart a conversation and we are beating a dead horse.If Ed wants to continue fine.I am out of here. May be awhile before I return .Best wishes to all.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on October 21, 2021 at 11:28 pm

Forgive me for trying to shine a tiny sliver of light on a bleak subject matter. The 42nd St theaters may not have been the opulent palaces that Loews, Fox, and RKO gave us, but the Beacon is magnificent, as is the former Hollywood. And my only point was that several of these remarkable buildings (yes, including all 5 Wonder Theaters) are still standing, and have benefited from the care of those who currently occupy them. No one here would rather see the Keith’s still standing in all its splendor as a church than see it pounded into rocks and dust? Optimist? Maybe… though I’m not optimistic that any of these buildings will ever be put back to their intended use. Cockeyed? Oh, well, yes… without a doubt!

JeffM55 on October 22, 2021 at 1:40 am

Hey, I’m still hoping they’ll reconstruct the original Penn Station.

WilliamMcQuade on April 27, 2022 at 6:27 pm

Do not hold your breath waiting for the landmarked portion of the theater being reassembled as promised. Would not surprise me if it is now in pieces in a landfill. Politicians do no care.They never had and never will.I no longer get involved with anything involving NY or federal government A pox on them all

michaelkaplan on July 25, 2022 at 1:01 am

The last movie I saw there was Hitchcock’s “Marnie” in 1964. As I recall, the theater was mostly empty. I kept staring up at the ceiling to watch the twinkling stars. The Keith’s in Huntington WV is its twin, and has been fully restored, including the organ.

DavidZornig on February 28, 2023 at 11:58 pm

Demolished in 2022, confirmed via Google Street View.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on March 25, 2023 at 8:07 pm

Just posted a pair of screenshots from Google Maps satellite image of the site. Not as up to date as the Street View, but they show the vacant and cleaned lot as well the “protected” enclosed lobby and foyer space to be restored with the new development.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater.