History of Sheepshead Bay Road’s Movie Theaters

Sheepshead Theater building / BKLYNER

Two movie theaters opened on Sheepshead Bay Road in 1920s.

First to open was the Sommer Theatre at 1648 Sheepshead Bay Road. It had about 600 seats, one screen, opened on a rainy evening on November 24, 1921 with speeches,  a news reel and comedies leading up to a showing of “Dangerous Curve Ahead” by Rupert Hughes, a silent movie hit of the year.

The theater was built by developer Jacob Sommer, and was owned and operated by Sheepshead Amusement Corporation.

Sommer Theater closed at the end of the summer in 1929, the year Sheepshead Theater opened a block away at 1722 Sheepshead Bay Road, offering 1,900 seats, and boasting “equipped with Western Electric sound installation”, reported Brooklyn Eagle at the time. The “Talkies” had arrived.

Image via Motion Picture News.

Sheepshead Theater opened on July 12, 1929. It was designed by architect Thomas R Short, and built by A.H. Schwartz for Century Circuit chain, which owned a number of movie theaters in Brooklyn and Long Island.

“The decorative color scheme is henna, mellow green and silver and gold. The walls are embellished with mural decorations divided between floral designs and birds of plumage”, the February 1930 issue of Motion Picture News remarked.

The theater seems to have appealed to modern sensibilities of the time and had three watchwords, according to the magazine – “refinement”, “delicacy”, and “simplicity”, with special thought going into appealing to its women patrons.

The reviewer concludes that “Every detail meets with the requirements of modernistic art and adheres strictly to the formula. Nothing meets the eye on entering the Sheepshead Theater that tends to arouse any feeling other than one of restful comfort”.

Sheepshead Bay Road circa 1950. Via ebay.

After it closed sometime in 1970s, the Sheepshead Theater building became home to Roll-A-Palace – a roller skating rink that lots of folks are nostalgic for still. Take a listen.

Roll-A-Palace  via Pinterest

Then it became a Bally’s health club, and most recently – Factory Cafe.

Factory Cafe Interior/ BKLYNER

After Sommer Theater closed, it briefly became home to an indoor miniature golf course, which was all the craze in 1930, according to permits filed with Department of Buildings. That seems not to have worked out as planned and the theater re-opened as Sheldon Theater in 1931.

Sheepshead Bay Road, Sommer/Sheldon Theater would have been on the right where you can see Viva sign.

It is said to have closed in 1953 and was later torn down, though we’ve been unable to confirm the dates or find a single picture of the original theater. It would have been across the street from Monica’s Bridal, a spot occupied by Viva discount store.

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  1. I grew up in Sheepshead Bay and fondly remember that theater and others along Nostrand Ave and Kings Highway. Also the Graham Theater. Those were the days, my friend…


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