Remembering 18th Avenue’s Walker Theater

The Walker Theater, back in the day, 1978 or later judging by the movies listed on its marquee. (Photo via Cinema Treasures)
The Walker Theater, back in the day, 1978 or later judging by the movies listed on its marquee. (Photo via Cinema Treasures)

We learned yesterday that longtime retail branches Mandee’s and Annie Sez will be vacating their shops at 6401 18th Avenue at the end of January. As many of you know or remember, and as many of you have likely inferred based on the building’s large awning, long before 6401 18th Avenue hosted either women’s clothing chain the building was home to a theater called The Walker.

An undated photograph showing The Walker Theater back in what appears to be the early 1900s, probably circa 1935 or a bit earlier.

According to the website Cinema Treasures, The Walker Theater opened in the January of 1926 and was turned into a multiscreen when it was taken over by United Artist’s Theatres in 1986 before closing in 1988 after 62 years.

Some may recall the Walker’s Wurlitzer, one of the last theater organs remaining in the city at the time of the Walker’s closure. The theater was immediately converted to retail following the end of its life as a moviehouse, the New York Times reported at the time.

The theater was named for former New York City Mayor James J. Walker.

http://www.brooklyntheatreindex.com/2015/09/walker-theatre-6401-18th-avenue.html
A photo of The Walker Theatre in September, 1928. (Photo via Brooklyn Theatre Index)

Many fought to preserve the Walker Theater through landmark designation — and the building even was, for a very brief period, a landmark — but the designation decision was overturned, and the theater’s interiors have long been gutted in the name of retail conversion.

The first film to play at the Walker was Wallace Beery’s Fireman, Save My Child and the last films to play there were 3 Men And A Baby, Satisfaction, and Shoot To Kill, according to Cinema Treasures.

Remnants of the building's theater past are still visible on its gorgeously detailed facade. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)
Remnants of the building’s theater past are still visible on its gorgeously detailed facade. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

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  1. We lived on 64th between 18th an 19th avenues and hung out in the alley behind the theater and played a form of jai alai that we invented in that space. We would also pry open one of the side doors on “the lots” side of theater and sneak in.

  2. “We would also pry open one of the side doors on “the lots” side of theater and sneak in”
    You can’t do that anymore in this “Fascist Police State” era with surveillance cameras everywhere. Homeland security would be called in and you would be arrested questioned as a suspected terrorist. No more innocent fun as a kid

  3. Actually, kids still do this. I’ve seen it several times. Not enough staff to have an usher in each theater, and no one monitors the camera feeds. Perhaps, in the days when a movie cost a nickel or up to a couple of dollars, this was innocent fun, but it was still petty theft. Now that movies cost upwards of $15, it’s less innocent, if still petty. (The new version isn’t to sneak in through a backdoor, but to pay for one movie, and then theater-hop to see several in one day.)

  4. love that bus in the first picture but i am sure it was uncomfortable. must not have had air conditioning or heat. and suspension was likely terrible so you felt each bump…love the look of that bus though

  5. M father, Bill Nafash, was a pioneer in the heyday of motion pictures, having begun his career on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. His mother would give him a nickel for entrance to the silent movie ? house, but he would use it for candy-as h e was being taught to run the projection equipment by the operator. He later installed most of the projectors in the metropolitan area. Much later in life, he was called to do some repair work at he Walker Theater before it’s changeover to retail life. My dad never saw it happen but I know it would have saddened him.

  6. I grew up on 18th Avenue and the Walker theatre is remembered so very fondly. Many of our “crew” of friends worked there, so obviously, much of my teenage years was spent there. In fact I still have “momentos” from the theatre before the demolition, legally obtained of course!! The details and structure of the theatre interior were stunning, even for a teenager. I do remember fighting for its landmark status and sadly remember the beginning of its retail life. I am even more saddened to see yet another retail conversion to Target. I am done with Target now! LOL. Long Live the Walker, you are sorely missed.

  7. IM 73. LOOKING BACK GOING TO THE WALKER THEATER WITH MY SISTER ALONE WAS A BIG TREAT. WE WOULD GLO TO SILVER RODS DRU G STORE ACROSS THE STREET AND BU9Y 3 CANDIES FOR 50 CENTS I THUINK. THEN SAVE MONEY TO BU Y [POP CORN. WE WATCHED CARTOONS AND A MOVIE. IT WAS SO GOOD COOL INSIIDE ANJD WATCHED ALL AFTERNOON. MY MOM WAS PROBABLY HAPPY TO GET RID OF U S FOR A WHILE.. WE ALSO HAD A HANDICAPPED BROTHER. MOM AND SIS AND I WENT TO SEE DRACU LAR THERE AND STEVIE WAS SO SCARED HE ASKED TO GO HOME. MOM LEFT MY SIS AND I. WE HEL;D EACH OTHER. WOW WHAT MEMORIES

  8. Spent many Saturday afternoons and date nights at the Walker. I remember when I was very young. They would have live performers come in. I mudt have been around 5 or 6 when my parents took us to see not only a film, but Davey Crockett and Rin Tin Tin. Another time were The Three Stooges.
    Saturdays , you saw a string of cartoons before the main feature film. The Good Old Days, now that I’m older, I understand it

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