RKO Keith’s won’t be sold: Owner

The co-owner of RKO Keith's in Richmond Hill says the building will not be sold. Community residents were concerned after the marquee's letters were taken down. Photo by Alex Christodoulides
By Howard Koplowitz

The co-owner of defunct Richmond Hill movie theater RKO Keith's said there was no basis for rumors in the community that the nearly 90-year-old building was going to be sold.

Concern spread in Richmond Hill that the structure was for sale after letters spelling out RKO Keith's on the movie theater's marquee were taken down about two weeks ago.

Robert Woolridge, co-owner of RKO Keith's, which now serves as a bingo hall and flea market, said the letters were taken down because they were loose. He said they will eventually be put back up.

“We're definitely not selling the building,” said Woolridge. “I don't want anyone to get too excited. We did a little bit of repair work and everybody went crazy.”

Nancy Cataldi, the Richmond Hill Historical Society president, said she did not know why the letters were taken down before the TimesLedger told her Woolridge's explanation.

“That's great. I'm so excited,” Cataldi said. “I was concerned because it was such an intact, beautiful marquee. It's like stepping back in time.”

She noted that the building has not been landmarked, meaning the owners have the right to remove the marquee if they wish.

Meanwhile, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission decided “a couple of days ago” that RKO Keith's does not meet the criteria for landmark status, according to a Kew Gardens preservationist who did not want to be named.

The preservationist said the agency did not give reasons why the RKO Keith's does not meet its criteria.

Cataldi said the movie theater, which opened in 1929, deserves to be landmarked.

“It's part of our downtown area. That's like our last little piece here” after next-door neighbor Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor was sold last year, she said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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