Friday, March 20, 2009

RKO Keith's video

"My slideshow and interior tour of the RKO Keith's theater building in downtown Flushing, New York. Please note that I was born after the Keith's closed and was not familiar at all with the interior when I was inside." - cartoonsonfilm


jerry rotondi comm. to save keith's said...

Thanks Tom!

georgetheatheist said...

Thomas J. Stathes. You get an A+.

BTW who was Keith in the name RKO Keith?

jerry rotondi comm. to save keith's said...

Benjamin Franklin Keith
or B. F. Keith if you like George.

He combined his vaudeville circuit with Edward Franklin Albee's and it became the Keith-Albee circuit.

You see....they coincidently both shared "Franklin" as a middle name.


The "Keith Albee Theater"...
later the Radio Keith's Orpheum...
when RKO took over.

There was an old "Orpheum" circuit too.

georgetheatheist said...


This site is sooo educational.

chris flash said...

I remember this theater as a kid. Though it was converted into a multi-plex with 2 or 3 minis within the theater, I could still marvel at the beautiful details throughout, still intact.

Many years later, I heard it had closed and that a shady local "business" man had bought it with intentions of tearing down, but was thwarted by a landmark designation.

Does anyone know the current status of this theater? It would be wonderful to get it into the right hands for restoration and live shows. (I remember Bob Hope refering to having performed there.)

Anonymous said... the theater in its current crappy condition doesn't encourage anyone to want to restore it...let alone buy it for any other purpose than to raze it.

I think you just shot your cause in the foot...uh...better make that the thorax!

Anonymous said...

Looking at the video, I am disgusted at how local elected and appointed officials could have ignored it for so long.

They endlessly praise the diversity, growth, and economic potential of Flushing, while paying mere lip service to RKO Keith's.

The Valencia in Jamaica was saved by a church. Where is a church to rescue the Keith's?

King of [Silent] Cartoons said...

To the second to last Anonymous:
Of the 500+ who have watched the video and the nearly 1,500 members on our facebook group I think you're in the minority for feeling that way. Not everyone is a pessimist about the Keiths and its current condition- do you have some ulterior motive for not supporting its preservation regardless of the condition shown in the video? Clearly sentiment is what's driving this newfound interest despite how the building has languished. Other buildings have been completely reconstructed from b/w photographs. Here we have much more to go on!

Anonymous said...

You need to have "more to go on" than just hopes and dreams. How about a business plan? Who is going to take this project on with the theater in a shambles?

Anonymous said...

EDC should take this property over and fix it up and leave Willets Point alone which is already making money.

Anonymous said...

That's absolutely correct last poster!

A chorus of lip service rang out from the balcony at Borough Hall down to some members of the local community board sitting in the orchestra pit!

Tsk, tsk tsk...after all, what could they do
to rid Flushing of Tommy "the terrible"?

Claire Shulmamn on Tommy Huang:

"But he pays his taxes".

Eminent domain could have been invoked for a very worthwhile was requested by many community groups at the time.

But the
accomplices to Huang's early crimes were probably afraid of him... perhaps knowing full well...that he had the goods on them all going back to those grand old Manes days.

Eh..., CB#7 member "Ms. ?",, "Welly"?

Now everybody's covering their by asses by issuing public statements on the importance of the RKO Keith's to the community!

Even C.M. Liu just piped up again
in the Q. Trib last week.

How come all these "concerned power houses" haven't pulled out all the stops to locate a sympathetic buyer for the Keith's which is situated at the gateway to Flushing?

It took a former resident living thousands of miles away on the western coast of our nation to undertake this role.

Bravo son and the greatest luck in your endeavor !!!

Anonymous said...

No ulterior motive...
just a realist old pal.

I just hate hot air...the all show and no blow yourself perhaps?

Put you're money where your mouth is ol' buddy!

I believe in your dream.

Nothing is impossible!

The winter palace of Catherine the Great was rebuilt from worse shambles than the Keith's auditorium after it was bombed to hell during WWII.

They did that too from just old B/W photos.


And how long did that take?

Thread up your old cartoons with the torn sprockets and
keep on transferring them to DVDs.

In the meantime WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE in hard time or cash to the rebuilding of the Keith's ravaged interior?

There's an old saying:
"Put a lump of shit in one hand and a wish in the other and what have you got"?

OR more abbreviated"

Show me the money not just your videos & posts!

Do you think posting your photo adds any credibility to your words?

When I see Warren Buffet's picture
posted here instead I'll be impressed a whole lot more!

jerry rotondi comm. to save keith's said...

A past note:

During the period between the early to mid 1990s, Councilwoman Harrison, along with many community leaders, were pushing for the Keith's to be taken from Tommy Huang's ownership via eminent domain proceedings in the interest of the public good.

One of the numerous ideas put forward at that time was to restore it and perhaps turn it into a multicultural performing arts/convention center.

Then borough President Shulman
(along with some others) apparently didn't feel that was feasible.

So Flushing was basically told, "NO"!

I believe that reaching out for any possibilities on the world wide web surely can't hurt the cause and might actually help the long time efforts to save the Keith's.

We support that in full, for creativity and dedication has always been the key to any of our past successes.

You might even land a "big fish"
or a cargo hold full of little fishes with money, skills and good ideas.

We've certainly never given up hope.

That's why we haven't yet dissolved "The Committee To Save The RKO Keith's of Flushing Inc." with the Secretary of the State of New York's office.

It remains ACTIVE until this Keith's matter is resolved one way or the other but in a different role!

Who knows what may come.

The RKO Keith's SHOULD HAVE BECOME Queen's premiere attraction
from the very beginning!

It should have been serving as a productive live performance venue for the entire borough and surrounding area.

It's still well located near
all modes of transportation.

We live in hope long after more than a quarter of a century since our committee's founding.

Despite this current looming financial crisis...think of what fruit the Great Depression bore:

The WPA and various national arts & theater groups...all during our nation's darkest hours!

Wild as it might seem
the time might have come to reach DIRECTLY out to Washington D.C.

Dare I say the President's office?

for the love of the Keith's!

Anonymous said...

If by chance a church should take over the Keith's, even its partially landmark status could be eliminated.

The sanctuary of any religious

That would mean an interference of government into religion which
violates the US Constitution.

Anonymous said...

1,500 members in "Facebook" and 500+ viewers doesn't yet
(I suppose) even add up to $2,000 in your bank account.

What's your point?

Or rather where's the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to buy the Keith's?

You're sounding more like a cockeyed optimist without a business plan as each day passes.

Have you begun to crunch some numbers
to see what might be a workable return in box office receipts to cover the cost of, let's say, an 80 million dollar restoration job?

Start working with some real figures or else get a professional to do it for you.

I'm not against your idea of a performing arts center.

In fact I love it!

But convince me why I should invest my money in the Keith's.

Merely dismissing me or any other hard nosed businessman as a "pessimist" to justify an unrealistic dream won't cut it out there in the real non-cartoon world.

They'll all be asking you the same question over and over again:

After the theater is restored
how long will it take to amortize my original investment and when will it be operating in the black?

Months, years or a full decade?

Anonymous said...

it seems to us that the Stathes/Perlman school of naivety
had best come up with a realistic,
alternative, productive, adaptive re-use for the former RKO Keith's Theater.

Let's all wipe the tears from our eyes and get on with it before the remaining unique landmarked portions are lost as well.

Time is not on this theater's side.

It continues to deteriorate.

Those sump pumps that kept the town pond beneath the Keith's from breaching its foundation haven't been operating since 1986!

jerry rotondi comm. to save keith's said...

An added note:

World famous theater architect Thomas Lamb who designed the RKO Keith's
rarely worked in the "atmospheric" style.

He preferred "hardtop" designs
which featured ornamented detailed plaster ceilings rather than a domed auditorium upon which floating clouds were projected by a "Brenograph" device to give the impression that one is seated outdoors in a romantic town square.

The "atmospheric" style was introduced by architect John Eberson who worked mainly for the Loew's Corp.

The Keith's grand foyer, also executed in the "atmospheric" style is extremely rare for Lamb.

It is, perhaps, the only remaining one of it's type by Lamb left in the world!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I agree with "George the A".
This site is so-o-o-o educational!

Anonymous said...

Maybe some of these "preservationist" mamma's boys ought to be concentrating on saving that rare foyer and lobby.

At least they're already landmarked.

Yet it couldn't hurt to see what can be done to preserve some of the auditorium's elements.

Keep on pushing though...
all you folks out there.

Flushing has already lost too much!

Anonymous said...

I remember the grandeur of this theater. The horrible thing for us in Flushing is that we consistently get passed for restoration projects for the "betterment" of Manhattan. Funny how the Ziegfeld Theater has received a full restoration but we have the utmost pleasure of watching this historical structure slowly disintegrate. That holds the same for the New York State Pavilion in Flushing Meadow Park. Flushing is not shown to the world as a possible tourist destination. But, "Citifield" gets so much press and people from all over come to see baseball games there. One more subway stop is all there is!

King of [Silent] Cartoons said...

Why all the "Anonymous" comments, folks?

Anonymous said...

Great Video. I was born ad raised in Flushing and spent every day of my High School years traveling through downtown Flushing. The RKO was an amazing place to see movies. It should be restored. I also worked n Flushing from 1983-1990 and I can't believe the Keith's property is still unsettled. Flushing has the potential to be a Manhatten East with it's ethnic diversity and many various retail businesses and restaurants.

BigDaddy said...

I grew up in College Point and used to sneak into the Keith's with my friends to see movies all the time. Willy Wonka, Jaws to name a few. Watching that vid brought back fond memories. As a boy, I remembered the interior shot the most, I am guessing the screen is the one I saw many movies on! It's a shame how the theater has fallen into such a state of disrepair, but some of the elements are still stunning to see. Highly worthy of an overhaul IMHO!

casacastro6 said...

Thank you for the video. Even though I was nearly at tears watching the video over what has become of such a beautiful structure. I was brought right back to my childhood and remembered and recognized most of the interior. I grew up and spent most of my life in Flushing. I spent many hours in the theater both as a paying customer and sneaking in as a teen. I left Flushing 15 years ago, but I would be there opening night, if only someone could find a way to bring the RKO Keith back.