Tip Top Theatre

357 Wilson Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Situated in Bushwick near the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Linden Street, the Tip Top Theatre was one of many early Brooklyn cinemas that did not survive the dual arrival of sound movies and the Great Depression. More information is needed about the Tip Top’s history and the current status of the site.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

johndereszewski on April 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm

I visited this site earlier today and can report the following.

The site of the old theater is now a part of the Hope Gardens III public housing development. Unlike most other “projects”, Hope Gardens provides low income public housing in a manner that conforms to the scale and “street scape” of the existing community. It basically looks like a collection of garden apartments, not a separated campus of out-of-scale “projects”. This approach was adopted at the behest of the local Community Board, where I served as District Manager during the late 1970’s.

When I was working for the Board during the 1970’s, this site was probably a deserted vacant lot. I am sure that no one of the locals remambered any cinematic use here. Thus, in order to better document the Tip Top as a movie house, you will need to consult official documents of the time of its operation. (Calling Lost Memories!!)

Hope this helps to somewhat fill this vacuum.

johndereszewski on February 2, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I just took another look at the Building Dept. data and can report the following.

The records indicate that this building was demolished around 1980. This means that 357 Wilson was an abandoned hulk, rather than a vacant lot, during my DM days in Bushwick. But this is basically a distinction without a difference.

The records also indicate a 1956 certificate of occupancy that legalized 357 as a three story building with stores on the first floor and residential apartments on the uppor two stories. This probably obliterated the last remnants of the movie house. (One wonders what was there after the Tip Top closed and before the alteration occurred.)

It would really be great if someone who has access to this information can tell us when the Tip Top faded from the annual movie theater records. My guess is that this occurred sooner rather than later, and that the Tip Top was an old nickelodeon theater that did not survive through even the end of the silent era. Even its name evokes a very early 2oth century period of performance. (Its life – and demise – might not be very different from that of the Ridgewood Casino.)

Hope this provises some food for thought.

johndereszewski on February 5, 2010 at 1:32 pm

One minor correction regarding my previous comment and another question.

Re the correction, the old theater situated on Irving Ave. was, of course, not the Irving but the Imperial. Sorry.

My question concerns the 600 seat capacity noted at the top of the page. Warren, when you created this page, from what source did you document this number? A 600 seat capacity seems pretty high, considering – as noted in my previous comment – the apparently more modest dimensions of 357 Wilson Ave. In addition, no available certificate of occupancy documents a facility of this size – or even the existence of a movie theater on this site.

My guess is that the Top Top was a far more modest affair that probably met its demise well before the onset of talking movies. But we need hard evidence to either confirm or contradict this assertion.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on February 5, 2010 at 3:00 pm

The Tip Top Theatre is listed in the 1926 and 1927 editions of Film Daily Yearbook with 600 seats. It has gone from listing by 1930.

johndereszewski on February 5, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Thanks so much Ken for filling in the details and basically verifying Warren’s past historic summary of this theater. (I do wonder, however, how the powers that be tabulated capacity at that time. My view is that a modern Building Dept. would have established capacity well below 600, but this is only a guess.)

Another question that Ken’s comment raises is: What occurred at this address after the Tip Top’s demise in the late 1920’s? Since Wilson Ave. was a vibrant commercial artery in a very stable community from the Tip Top’s close until at least the early 1960’s, it is very unlikely that the old theater remained vacant during most of this time. But what happened here? This is the big remaining question.

But, thanks Ken for flushing this question out.

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