New Ideal Theater

151 Knickerbocker Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11237

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Additional Info

Architects: Eric O. Holmgren

Previous Names: Ideal Theater

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New Ideal Theater

Located in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, on Knickerbocker Avenue between Flushing Avenue and Melrose Street. Originally a silent movie house dating back to 1925 as the Ideal Theater. The auditorium ran parallel to Knickerbocker Avenue, behind a row of small stores which were built in 1922. It was closed for a period of time (listed as the New Ideal Theater in 1930-Closed), it was reopened in 1931, and equipped for ‘talkies’.

It is listed as open in the 1939 Brooklyn Street Guide but was soon closed. It may have hosted Vaudeville or other live entertainment in earlier times.

In 2011, it was in use as a storage facility for a paper & plastics company: CTC Trading Inc., but was not in use when viewed in June 2013.

Contributed by JF Lundy, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

johndereszewski on October 13, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I visited this site today. This is really interesting stuff.

151 Knickerbocker Ave. is a narrow – 19 ft. wide – 3 story brick building that was clearly built early in the last century – well after the movie use dates noted in the introduction. The first floor appears to be commercial and it also extends a bit further back than do the upper two floors. (This could be a more recent extension.) The two upper floors look residential – though this is hardly clear. Most tellingly, a frieze exists above the first floor windows that is written in Hebrew script. By the looks of things, this suggests a public (religious) use – probably a small synagogue. (If anyone who can read Hebrew can visit this site, it would be most appreciated.)

If not for the Hebrew frieze, I would have to conclude that this building never hosted any public use – much less a movie theater. But the first floor may have had a more interesting life. In short, this can be either a totally fictitious site – or one of the most interesting.

johndereszewski on October 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

After I posted the last message, I reviewed the Buildings and Finance Department data about this address and made a second site visit. The findings are by no means consistent but basically indicate that the long since demolished New Ideal Theatre was located between the building with the Hebrew script and Melrose St. The “Hebrew” building probably abutted the movie theater but was not part of it, though this is not clear.

In 1920, the Buildings Dept. awarded a Certificate of Occupancy for “151 – 163” Knickerbocker. The subject of the award is illegible but appears to concern “stores” or at least some sort of commercial use. (If anyone can make better sense of this document, good luck.) Then, in 1940, an – unexplained – zoning variance was granted for 151-159. These documents appear to verify that the site was approved for a theater in 1920 and then OKed for something else on the latter date. (The Finance Dept. map also verifies this location of 151 Knickerbocker.)

Things get a little more complicated when we turn to the 1990’s. In 1995, two C of O’s were granted for 151 Knickerbocker. These, however, concerned the portion of the block between Flushing Ave. and the “Hebrew script” building. So it seems that 151 Knickerbocker is one of the most desired addresses in all of Brooklyn!

Finally, during my site visit, I noted that a sign for the CRT Trading Company, which occupies the buildings situated between the “Hebrew script” building and Melrose St. states a 151 Knickerbocker Ave. address. (Phone calls made to the stated number were not answered.)

Based on all this, it appears most likely that the New Ideal was situated between the “Hebrew script” building and Melrose St. Whether that enigmatic building ever served any cinematic function is unlikely, but certainly not out of the question.

Any additional assistance in clearing this up will be greatly appreciated.

Bway on October 18, 2008 at 5:19 pm

John, very interesting (and thanks for the email telling me about this too!). Do you have a photo?

Bway on April 20, 2009 at 7:15 am

Here’s a street view of the New Ideal. The beams for the old marquee are still in place. I would love to see a historic photo if anyone knows of one.

View link

johndereszewski on April 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Bway, I don’t think this is the old New Ideal. Instead, it is probably a “tax-payer” that took its place after the old movie house was demolished. But, who knows?

jflundy on June 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm

There is a listing for the Ideal Theater at 151 Knickerbocker Ave. in the 1932 Haw-Ta-Get-There Street Directory of Brooklyn New York. it must have become the “New Ideal” at some point after this date.

johndereszewski on June 13, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Another interesting thing about this theater is just how localized the movies were in this golden age of cinema – and how much more residential the surrounding community was during this era.

This part of Knickerbocker was really far from the main commercial strip and it is hard to believe that it could support an adequate audience base. But it did so for many years. It should also be noted that, during this time, far more people lived in the community situated just north of Flushing Ave. This community – which once also supported its own Catholic church – became devestated in the years following World War II, particularly after the 1961 zoning ordinance doomed it into a complete industrial zone. But the former existence of the New Modern provides and documents a link to it.

johndereszewski on December 19, 2010 at 7:37 am

I am linking an article that I recently wrote in the terrific BushwickBk blog that discussed a number of old Bushwick theaters, including the New Ideal. A recent picture of the theater appears toward the end of a slideshow that also depicts a number of other old theaters. Hope you enjoy it

View link

jflundy on December 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Great article John. Thank you for the link.

johndereszewski on December 19, 2010 at 3:33 pm

JF, your nice words mean a lot. Thanks.

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