Alben Theatre

5406 Third Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11220

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Additional Info

Functions: Storage

Previous Names: Etude Theatre

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Alben Theatre in 1940

This small, late-run “nabe” was originally known as the Etude Theatre, and may have started as a nickelodeon. It operated with this name from at least 1915 to 1934. The name changed to Alben Theatre in 1935, perhaps to suggest a connection with the world-famous Albee Theatre in downtown Brooklyn. The Alben Theatre was closed in 1962.

In 2006, the building was in use as a paper goods wholesaler.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

DJM78 on January 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I pass this place all the time. It was a movie theater? Until 1964? As for the El track post, I believe the Gowanus Expwy was built atop the BMT third avenue line.

Miguel on January 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Yep, it was a theatre. Pretty must looked like the B&W photo I posted until the late 1950s.

DJM78 on January 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

AWESOME PHOTO. I wonder what the seating capacity was? The place looks tiny. I’ve actually been inside the building. They sell candy and other products wholesale there. I can’t recall have far back the building runs from 3rd Ave.

Miguel on January 13, 2012 at 7:16 am

According to the top of this page it had 450 seats. I just don’t remember it having that many. Think layout was center walk-in aisle with rows on either side and back to front aisles on the ends too.

If you walk around the corner on 54th Street you’ll see the back of the building next to the current apartment building on the corner (used to be a pizza joint there at one time). Back area there had a fire exit and was fenced in. Dumpsters were also back there for garbage.

I actually showed that B&W photo to the current walkers there this past summer and they couldn’t believe it either. Ha! That block has changed much over the years. Actually going back there today.

Miguel on January 13, 2012 at 7:16 am

Oops…that should be “workers” not “walkers”. Need coffee. Ha!

johndereszewski on January 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

What a wonderful picture, Miguel. Thaks so much for posting it. …… Since “Parents on Trial” was released in 1939, this further confirms the date of the photo, which was taken as part of a comprehensive survey of all NYC properties conducted that year. (Incidently, a very young Noah Beery Tr. played a featured part in this movie during his pre-Rockford File days.)……. When the photo was taken, the el was in its last days of operation and would soon be replaced by the Gowannus Expressway. As I recall, the el’s superstructure was initially used to support the highway. This all changed in the late 50’s – early 60’s when the Gowannus was replaced and widened by the current structure as part of the project that brought us the Verrazano Bridge. At that time, the entire east side of that portion of 3rd Ave. was demolished to make way for the expansion. I suspect the extreme disruption caused by this project – and the loss of hundreds of nearby residential units – played a significant role in the Alben’s demise in 1962.

DJM78 on January 14, 2012 at 11:40 am

Without question 3rd avenue being torn apart couldn’t have been good for business. From what I’m told and what I’ve read Robert Moses was very good at ripping a neighborhood in half.

Miguel on January 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Growing up I remember construction on the section that went towards to Verrazano Bridge. I remember the stores on the other side of Third Avenue disappearing.

Most of the business that lined Third Avenue at the time, mostly started to disappear from the area not because of the El so much, as because of the street gangs that popped up in the early 70s. I knew most of the owners on that block—having worked at 2 stores there growing up—and they decided they had enough with the gangs and either retired or moved to other locations. There is only one business that is still there from back then — that’s the grocery store on the corner of 55th Street.

DJM78 on January 20, 2012 at 9:31 am

I’ve taken a second look at the photo at the top of this page. That’s a real deal cobblestone street. I like the photo that much more now. You can still find some of that classic cobblestone on First Avenue and a few other streets in Sunset Park.

Miguel on March 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

Not only can you find cobblestones on First Avenue, you’ll also see the rails for the freight trains there, that took goods between the warehouses along First Avenue and the waterfront.

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