MovieWorld takes over Great Neck theater, plans upgrades

MovieWorld takes over Great Neck theater, plans upgrades
Great Neck's hometown movie theatre is under new management as of April 1. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

For Russell Levinson, a managing partner of MovieWorld Cinemas in Douglaston, the shows must go on – and in this case, they’ll be in the Great Neck movie theater on Middle Neck Road.

MovieWorld took over Great Neck’s Squire Theatre in Great Neck Plaza on April 1, the company announced on Facebook last week, a space once operated by Bow Tie Cinemas. MovieWorld had been searching for a location since July, when a Lowes home improvement store took over the Douglaston location.

Levinson said Bow Tie Cinemas seemed eager to get out, and MovieWorld has forged a new lease with the building owner. Now, Levinson said his goal is to attract people back to the Great Neck theater.

“Our vision is we need to bring more people in, we need to get more people to come, we need to bring people who used to come but don’t come anymore to come back, and we realize there needs to be some improvements here,” Levinson said.

The development follows news late last year that the Bow Tie theaters in Manhasset and Roslyn were sold to Cinemas GMC LCC, a single-use company formed just for the purchase of the theaters. Their future is unclear.

Among the most important improvements to the Great Neck theater will be the installation of comfortable recliner seats in each of the seven screening areas, Levinson said, which could take a few months.

This could reduce the seating from its current 925 seats to somewhere in the 300s, Levinson noted, but the seats aren’t filled as is.

“These are old seats and they need to be replaced with bigger seats, which will automatically reduce your capacity,” Levinson said. “What you hope for when you do the seats like that is you get more people coming in to more shows, so you sell out your 5 o’clock, your 7 o’clock, your 9 o’clock, just create more demand.”

The company is also working on expanding the menu to include items like pretzels, Dip N’ Dots, new candies and coffee, Levinson said, and decreased the prices for food and tickets.

According to the Facebook post, tickets will be $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and children. Ticket prices will be $7 before 4 p.m. daily and tickets will be $6 for everyone on Tuesdays.

Further down the line, Levinson said he hopes to install digital screens showing movie times and menu items and possibly put in more arcade games for children.

Asked if he feels the theater could help revitalize the downtown, Levinson said once people see the theater’s offerings, it could be a huge hit with locals and other people – especially considering Douglaston’s theater is closed and there aren’t big theaters nearby.

“I think once these seats come in, we put up our digital menus, people see the new products, the new prices, it should be a big hit,” Levinson said.

Levinson said he hopes to continue and expand the theater’s relationship with the Gold Coast Arts Center and the Gold Coast International Film Festival. Levinson also said he hopes to to work “with anyone in the community that has anything going on,” whether it’s nonprofits, charities, events, schools, camps or businesses.

The Gold Coast Arts Center has been hosting film series at the Bow Tie theaters since 1995 and the film festival since 2011.

Caroline Sorokoff, the festival director of the Gold Coast International Film Festival, said she has “not reason to be anything but optimistic” because the new owners of the Great Neck theater seem “great and very excited about getting involved in the community.”

“We’ll have to see how everything moves going forward after they do the renovations for the theater, but we have no reason to believe it would be anything other than positive at this point,” she said.

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