‘Matriarch Of The Movie Theaters’ Passes Away

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Hope Mosetis (Sept. 13, 1927-July 17, 2022)

The Playhouse Theatre movie marquee, around 1976, advertises that Rocky was playing. (Photo from Anton Media Group Archives)

Great Neck resident Hope Mosetis passed away in July at the age of 94 years old. Hope was a wonderful and loving mother to Tina Mosetis and Tom Mosetis. In addition to being a mom, Hope worked at The Playhouse Theater and Squire Movie Theater for close to five decades.

Hope began working at the Playhouse in her young 20s and moved up to become the manager of the Playhouse and Squire Movie Theater. Hope’s mother, Ethel Poulos, also worked at the theater concession stand for five decades.

According to Anton Media Group archives, the Playhouse Theater opened in 1922, and the Squire Movie Theater opened in 1941. In the early days of the Playhouse, plays and comedy acts were shown, while the Squire Movie Theater only played movies. Eventually, the Playhouse moved on to only movies. The theaters did fun things for patrons, such as contests to win free movie tickets and special promotions for new movies.

Both theaters are a large part of Great Neck’s history, as they drew movie stars, comedians, sports players and many other celebrities to see movie premiers and spend a night in town. Hope’s daughter Tina recalls many different celebrities and exciting stories from her mother’s time managing the theater.

“Celebrities that lived in town or around the area would come to the theaters,” said Tina. She remembers celebrities visiting, such as comedian Sid Caesar, actor and comedian Alan King, and Yankee Baseball stars Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

Actress Joan Crawford visited the theater for a premiere of one of her movies, and Tina was able to give Crawford celebratory roses. Ralph Macchio, star of Karate Kid, came by himself and bought a ticket to see his own movie.

“Actor and singer Pat Boone came to the theater,” said Tina. “And I was sitting backstage watching him, and I saw him kiss my mom on the cheek. I remember being excited about it and thinking it was cool.”

 

Comedian Professor Irwin Corey and Hope Mosetis. (Photo provided by Tina Mosetis)

“Famous comedian Professor Irwin Corey, a regular guest on the Johnny Carson show, lived in town,” said Tina. “He was a wild, fun man. And the night we landed on the moon, he did a spontaneous comedic act in the middle of the theater.”

In addition to actors and comedians, occasionally concerts were held or live sports matches were shown at the theaters. Rock band, 10 Wheel Drive with Genya Ravan, performed at the Playhouse Theatre to a large crowd. It was a great concert promoted by Jon Ballin of Great Neck, Tina recalled.

Hope’s son Tom was thrilled when live boxing matches were shown at the Squire Theater. The theater would be jam-packed, like the match between Sonny Liston and Mohammed Ali. Sports Illustrated magazine names that fight as the fourth greatest sports moment of the twentieth century.

When Tina worked as a cashier at the theater, she remembers a time when famous comedian and actor Andy Kauffman came to the theater. The cashier booth was on the street, allowing Tina to look at the people walking on the sidewalks.

Andy Kauffman walked into the theater, back out to the street, and back in and out again. Tina recalls him looking around and being a bit frustrated. He finally approached her and asked for the lady manager, Hope.

“He told me that he wanted to thank her for always being kind to him,” said Tina. “It was very sweet. But I didn’t realize the significance of it till six months later when he passed away. He sought my mom out to thank her for her kindness.”

Hope was always dedicated to her job and had fun working with the theater staff. Many of the ushers, cashiers and concession stand workers were young high schoolers.

“My mom loved the kids that worked at the theaters,” said Tina. “She had a great rapport with all of the youngsters.”

Many young workers grew up with Hope as a role model that fostered a strong work ethic and inspired how they now run their businesses.

“She was very dedicated to her job. In a big snowstorm, she would go down to make sure the movie theater was open,” said Tina. “She’d work crazy hours; there was a time she worked three weeks in a row with no days off because some staff were out.”

“My mom also learned how to do all sorts of crazy things as the manager to keep the theaters running,” said Tina. “She learned what to fix in the boiler room if the heat went out. I remember getting home from working in the city one day, and she was at the theater computer with a screwdriver working to fix it. She had total confidence in herself.”

As the manager, Hope was the voice on the tape recording when people called for the movie schedule. Tina remembers people spinning their heads around and recognizing her voice when out at the supermarket or stores.

Hope worked hard to keep the Playhouse and Squire Movie Theaters a staple destination in Great Neck. Both theaters were where the community came together.

“There would be lines streaming around the block for big movies like Rocky,” said Tina. “This is where the community came together because everyone would run into their neighbors and buy popcorn and chat in the lobby, then hang out front to chat about the movie afterward. It really was a place for the

community to come together, and it’s sad we don’t have anything like that now because its not religious or a particular membership club; everyone could come and get together at the theaters.”

As a destination town, most people would come to the movies and then go out to eat at one of the many different restaurants and delis. After the movies, you could barely walk down the sidewalk because it was so busy, Tina explained.

Hope’s dedication and love for the Playhouse and Squire Movie Theaters helped make them an iconic piece of Great Neck history.

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