The fight to protect Coney Island’s endangered historic fabric yielded an important victory Tuesday when the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to landmark the historic Shore Theater.
The landmarking of the Shore Theater’s exterior is a positive development at a time when many of Coney Island’s historic structures are being demolished. The Shore Theater, if restored and reactivated, has the potential can serve as an important part of a revitalized future Coney Island, providing a tangible tie to its rich past.
Constructed in 1925 to the design of noted theater architects, Reilly & Hall, the theater was originally known as “Loew’s Coney Island” and served as both a live performance vaudeville venue and a movie house. At the time of its construction, the Shore Theater represented the optimism for the future of Coney Island at the dawn of the “Nickel Empire.” Its theater seated nearly 2,400 people, and its tower included a restaurant and office space intended for the entertainment industry, which the developers hoped would flourish in Coney Island.
Like many structures in Coney Island, the theater suffered in the 1970s as Coney Island was ravaged by municipal and private disinvestment and pure neglect. The theater, which had become known as the Brandt Shore in the 1960s, was an adult movie house for several years before it finally closed for good in 1973. It has sat vacant and unused ever since.
Over thirty-five years later, the building’s theater and office space provide a wonderful opportunity for a revitalized Coney Island. Although the interior has not been publicly accessible in decades, we believe that enough of the interior features, including its 66-foot-diameter dome, gold and cerise auditorium, and other details remain and could be restored. The Shore Theater, currently owned by Horace Bullard, could be a destination venue for Coney Island and could play a major role in bringing more people to Coney Island for amusements and entertainment.
Meanwhile, the damage inflicted on Coney Island by Thor Equities continues unabated. In the past month, Thor has demolished two historic structures along the Surf Avenue corridor, The Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Hotel. Thor is now moving ahead with the demolition of Henderson’s Music Hall, where Harpo Marx made his stage debut.