Shuttered for almost 40 years, the ornamental façade of the Kings Theatre—towering over the storefronts along Brooklyn, New York's busy Flatbush Avenue—stood as a sad reminder of the area’s decline, beginning in the 1970s, from a once glorious past. Now its decorative terracotta panels and sculptural flourishes are a sign of progress as the theater prepares to reopen in January 2015.
The façade, however, does not come close to equaling the splendor of the newly restored interiors. Opened in 1929 as one of five Loew’s Wonder Theatres constructed in New York and New Jersey, it was designed by Chicago architecture firm Rapp & Rapp as an entertainment palace where films and vaudeville acts were presented amidst a sumptuous backdrop inspired by the Palace of Versailles. Since closing in 1977, water infiltration and looting had reduced the theater’s coffered ceilings, ornate plaster walls, walnut paneling and columns, decorative paint, and marble and metal finishes almost to rubble. Structural damage and a failure in the roof system added to what one restorer called an “urban wreck.”