The Vitamin Shoppe opened its doors at 2005 86th Street about three weeks ago, looking to capitalize off the new rush of fitness fans patronizing Planet Fitness next door.
The business replaces London Fashion Shoes, which closed for good earlier this year.
It’s hard not to note the unique facade of the building. It has served as a retail location for many years, but some research reveals what many neighborhood oldtimers probably know: it’s the former site of the Benson Twins Theater. Here’s how it looked in the 1980s, as captured by the Department of Finance tax photos:
Although the theater once took up the entire site of what today is The Vitamin Shoppe and Planet Fitness, by the 1980s, as you can see, it was already split up for a retail location.
But just how old is it? Fortunately, CinemaTreasures has that info on hand:
Opened as the Benson Theatre on September 15, 1921, it was a 1,400 seat theatre, located in the shadows of the elevated subway in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Designed by architects George Keister & Libman. It was equipped with a Wurlitzer 2 manual, 6 ranks organ. It was run as a dollar theatre by the Golden Theatre chain before it was twinned by splitting it down the middle and renamed Benson Twins with seating for 588 and 400.
Subsequently, it became a first run house. In the final days, it was closed more than it was open, and was closed in 1988 for its current retail use.
According to city records, it came under the ownership of a new company called Benson Theatre Corp in 1972, which is about when it was renamed.
Unfortunately, with the overhaul of the facade by Planet Fitness, little remains of the original theater’s architecture. But eagle-eyed passersby will catch a glimps of the original “B” insignia, and the comedy and tragedy masks above The Vitamin Shoppe. Here’s a photo, but Forgotten NY has an even better one: