When you look closely, it becomes fairly obvious that the C-Town Supermarket on Ninth Street between Fifth and Sixth wasn’t always a grocery store. It’s an imposing Baroque structure, painted white and ornately decorated, with traces of a former cornice up by the roof.
The building has, in fact, spent most of its life in a capacity far more exciting than a supermarket. From 1914 till 1967 it was one of Brooklyn’s premier vaudeville and movie houses: the 2,400-seat RKO Prospect Theater.
In the early part of the 20th century, Fifth Avenue near Ninth Street was one of Brooklyn’s main shopping and entertainment destinations, and the area needed a theater large enough to hold a massive crowd. Constructed on the site of a former synagogue and three apartment houses, the Prospect attracted the biggest stars of its day, including The Marx Brothers, Burns and Allen, Fanny Brice, and Bert Lahr.
In 1925 a comedian named Ted Healy played here in an act that involved three young hecklers who’d sit in the audience and pick fights with him and each other. His act became a huge hit, but the hecklers became more famous than Healy once they struck out on their own as the Three Stooges.
Like most vaudeville theaters, it became a movie house in the 1930s, and as attendance declined over the years so did the theater’s condition. After the Prospect closed in 1967 the front portion was converted into the supermarket while the back section, where the stage had been, was boarded up and sealed off. By the late 1980s all that empty space had become a commodity, and the remaining area was gutted and converted into the Park Plaza Condominiums. Word has it that the construction workers had a lot of trouble carving windows into the 2½ foot-thick back wall.
No trace of the theater remains today, save for the ornate exterior.