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Then & Now Thursday: RKO Keith's Prospect Theater, 327 Ninth Street

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.

The auditorium

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.

Bustling Ninth Street, East from Fifth Avenue, 1928.

The same view, today. 

The theater's heavy cornice had been removed by the 1940s

The stage door is today the condo entryway.

Reader Comments (10)

Cool post! Thanks for the history lesson.

April 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterakuban

Amazing stuff. These photos are great! Thank you for the post.

May 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternegativ_boy

I have a original photo from when Frank Wine-gar was there. Anyone interested in it? My aunt is selling it.
e-mail me or call me or 419-309-8045

June 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thanks for the memories. Attended the Prospect often as a boy in the 30's & 40's. It was a little more expensive then the Avon, Globe, 16th St and Minerva Theaters but their films were much newer. The Sanders (Bartel-Pritchard Square) Manual Training H.S, (Now John Jay), used to hold pep rally's in the Prospect before the Manual-Erasmus Football game on election day. Many a first kiss between boy & girl took place in the Prospect's balcony unless matron Olive Trowbridge shined her flashlight on you.

November 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Amazing! I like the tram on 9th Street.

September 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarkus

In the late 1950's as a very young boy I lived across the street from the Prospect. I remember sitting at the window of our 3rd floor apartment watching the colorful lights chase endlessly around the huge marquis (shown in the black & white photo above). When the theater closed down for the night, a doo-wop group would gather in the entrance of the storefront to the right (there were no roll down gates back then). The glass from the storefront and the tile floor in the entrance gave a slight reverb effect to their singing. An occasional electric bus (using the overhead cables from the then retired trolleys) would drive by. Eventually a patrol car (they were black, white and green back then) would show up to let the doo-wop group it was time to go home.

January 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJ

I remember going there in the 60's as a kid. On a hot summer day, the 'KOOL - Air Conditioning Sign' made it a place you wanted to be at.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I remember back in the 1950s there use to be a dance studio and tuxedo store above the RKO Prospect. I also remember the great stage show's at the Prospect. Milton Berle made a guest appearance there back in the early 50s at one of these show's. Oh, what wonderful memorie's.

August 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Cairns

I would love to receive photos or slides containing events or just pictures or even video. I would be grateful for the opportunity to view or copy them for a book. Stories of adventures and experiences at RKO Prospect. Thanks

August 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMike Kab

The Dave Clark 5 made a fast appearance there in 1965 to promote "Having a Wild Weekend" (one of a handful of appearances to Brooklyn theaters that day.) Saw "The T.A.M.I. Show" there, also "The Birds", "GYPSY". Great marquee. Didn't have the marble lobby of the RKO Albee but was majestic inside and made every movie seem special.

December 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoe D

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