The Brooklyn Theatre Index—One Year On

On August 29, 2010, I gave an illustrated talk at the Coney Island Museum as part of their Ask the Expert series. This was the official launching of the first volume of the Brooklyn Theatre Index.

Being introduced by museum director Aaron Beebe (photo: Betty Sword)

The Index received an excellent review from Brooklyn historian, John Manbeck in the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper of September 16, 2010:

“Inside the book are 477 pages of information about Brooklyn’s love affair with theaters, both live action and movie. The sheer numbers are overwhelming. The table of contents runs according to street names but in the index, theaters are cross-referenced alphabetically by theater names, which makes the tome ideal for a future online transfer of production titles and names of individuals.”

“It sounds like a reference for theatre buffs and it is. But it is also fascinating information for the average Joe.”

The second volume followed in October with both receiving an excellent review by theatre historian Ken Roe on the Cinema Treasures website:

“The definite appraisal of all movie theatres to have operated in Brooklyn, a borough known to have had the most theatres operating out of the five NYC boroughs.”

The Brooklyn Theatre Index  chosen 2010 Outstanding Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society of America. The society’s president, Karen Colizzi Noonan, stated:

“Comprehensive, accurate and useful, The Brooklyn Theatre Index series is a valuable addition to any series theatre historian’s library.”

Nearing completion, the third volume on Coney Island, awaits funding for formatting and editing.


Theatre Talks LLC

Betty Sword

The Brooklyn Theatre Index copyediting, interior book design and layout by David Bow at Integrative Ink.


The Brooklyn Theatre Index

I had just started this blog when the Brooklyn Theatre Index got in the way. Originally I had hoped to publish two or three entries per week but that  was soon put aside.

It was about three years ago when I first conceived  the idea of publishing a history of Brooklyn showplaces from 1776 to the modern multiplex.  The Index having its origins in two earlier surveys of Brooklyn theatres, conducted independently by Dario Marotta and Michael Miller, each compiling an extensive listing  of Brooklyn venues.

For the purpose of the Index, the two lists were combined, and extensive research carried out on each auditorium, with new information uncovered and a number of new venues added.  I poured over newspaper clippings, blueprints, and company records to document each theatre.

The staff at the Brooklyn Collection, Central Library, was extremely helpful in all aspects of  my research. In addition to giving me her own list of 1929 theatres, Joy Holland even allowed access to the Brooklyn Eagle morgue files.

I traveled to Elmhurst, Illinois to visit the  Theatre Historical Society of America where Executive Director Richard J. Sklenar not only granted me access to the Michael Miller Collection but also assisted in my research.

View from the Theatre Historical Society, second floor of the York Theatre Building

Finally in February, 2010, I chose  Integrative Ink for the final editing, proofreading and formating of text. While I thought the first volume done, they did not. Integrative Ink made numerous suggestions, even preparing a style sheet. While trying to finish Volume II, I found myself going back over Volume I repeatedly. The publication of the Theatre Index was to coincide with two talks at the Central Library but not was not  the case. Various other projects, including this blog, put on hold as I struggled to complete the first two volumes. Finally at the end of July, The Brooklyn Theatre Index Volume I From Adams Street to Lorimer Street was ready for the publisher.  It took almost five months to prepare Volume I for print and less than a month for the second volume (going to press shortly).    I learned a lot from Stephanee Killen and Dave Bow of Integrative Ink.

Exterior view of the York Theatre Building in Elmhurst