Gables Theatre

2209 Merrick Road,
Merrick, NY 11566

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Gables Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Another Long Island neighborhood second run house, originally with an address 173 Merrick Road when it opened around 1932. In the early-1940’s it was part of the Prudential Theatres chain. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the price would be the last two digits of the year.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 29 comments)

musicom67 on November 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm

2209 Merrick Rd., Merrick is the current address. Technically, the theater was stripped to the steel back in the late ‘80s, and the building was rebuilt and repurposed. The 'theater’ frame is now a 2-story office building and the Merrick Rd. streetfront are now stores. It was named for the housing development built in the 1920’s by Charles Fox known as the “Merrick Gables”. Matter of fact, Fox Blvd. is on the side of the former theater and a street view down the street will show examples of these Spanish-type homes.

JPDellova on April 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm

I managed the Gables Theater in 1972. It was a great place with a fun staff of mainly young high school kids I inherited from my predecessor. I don’t remember hiring or firing anyone during the six or seven months I ran the place. I’d eat either for free in exchange for a few free passes at a husband and wife place down the street that served the same fare every night, I think it was a choice of meat loaf or spaghetti and meatballs; it was the size of most phone booths, the two people who ran it were a riot, really lovable. One time he mentioned in passing that he was chef and his wife said, disdainfully, “You aren’t a chef, a chef knows how to make more than two dishes!”

While I was there a couple of the favorite movies we ran were Cabaret, and Frenzy, which drew larger than usual audiences. Back then we’d run movies for several weeks because the longer it ran in the same house the more the percentage moved to the theater chain from the distributor. During a showing of Frenzy I went down to check on the place after everything got quiet and emerged from the auditorium to see my head usher tieless and standing behind the candy counter, alone. I went over and he pointed to the store room. When I went in the counter girl was sitting on a chair with the boy’s tie wrapped around her neck. The sight made me freeze, they’d gotten me and had a good laugh over it. When it rained I had to go around the auditorium placing buckets because there were so many holes in the roof, but it didn’t stop people from enjoying the films. Great loose atmosphere and a lot of fun.

I managed to get in trouble with the front office accountant because he decided it would be a good idea to raise the ticket price and show only one movie. Fiasco, it was a like watching a waterhole dry up during a draught. I got in trouble because I very methodically, and on my own time, charted the attendance figures of the place for the previous five years; it was the steadiest line you ever saw till that genius decided to tamper with things. At the managers meeting I presented my findings and told the upper UA management that the place had a local audience that went there whenever a new feature arrived. The whole family would see it during the two or three weeks it played and the small variance was due to people from neighboring towns who went a little out of their way to see a film that was no longer playing anywhere else. But when the price went up and it was cut to one movie and cartoons the locals stopped coming. The regional manager and district manager and accountant began shouting at one another, each blaming one of the others or both for the unwise decision, which was reversed immediately! My reward for this extra effort was to have all three act as though I’d done something wrong. Disgusted — the pay was terrible and I lived pretty far off in Commack at the time — I gave them a week’s notice. The district manager asked me to reconsider. I said a hefty raise would help. He said it was out of the question, no one was getting anything, the chain was on a low budget, etc, so I left. But for the most part managing the place was a lot of fun.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 26, 2012 at 5:49 am

If musicom67 is correct about the theater’s location (Merrick Road at Fox Blvd), then the street view is off by a number of blocks. Can anyone confirm what the nearest intersection was?

NYDenn on March 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I remember seeing “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” & “Diner” there on a double bill like around ‘82. I also remember back in the 70’s the Gables used to show the Disney summer film festival for the summers of like '74 & '75. It was where they kind of took over the theater from like the last week of June till the last week of August. They would have a different Disney double feature ever week. Generally one animated film along with a live action film. Say “Cinderella” with “The Love Bug”. Fond memories. Oh yeah-I also remember seeing “The Aristocats” there in like '73 as part of a double feature with a Disney live action. In between-they ran a coming attraction for the then new James Bond film-“Live & let die”. THe kids started chanting for the Aristocats to start.

Tom Benigno  fka Tom Castagna
Tom Benigno fka Tom Castagna on August 14, 2015 at 8:41 pm

I worked there from 1972 to 1976—throughout college. The first manager was a Mr. Lupo. The second was a very nice lady named Ms. Kaye. After a few years, Lupo got fired for dipping into the till, then Kaye took over. There was no balcony when I worked there. The projection booth was upstairs as were the bathrooms. I must say that I enjoyed my time there. I quit when I when I started law school. Some of the kids that worked with me there were Grace Renna, Mary Rice, Wendy Winkle(?), a Dave, Eleanor, Terry, another Mary—that’s the best I can do. Every Tuesday night I put up the Marquee. It was an old fashioned marquee where the plastic letters were clipped to strips along a lit white background. It is the same one in the photo above. I remember a real estate office next door and a huge bowling alley down the block. I watched Nixon resign on a TV over the bar in that bowling alley. So long ago…

JPDellova on August 15, 2015 at 10:13 am

(Continued from 2012!)

I’m pretty certain I broke Lupo in as manager after giving two weeks notice. He was a very young and enthusiastic person, I believe he lived in NYC at the time. The manager I took over from was a mid-westerner named Lemon. He had a good sense of humor and referred to the young staff in nicknames such as “Chicken Little.”

There were a pair of brothers working as ushers aged 16 and 17 give or take a year, I think their names were Tom and Bob but I’m not certain (The younger one was dubbed ‘Chicken Little’ by my predecessor, Lemon). I remember Mary at the candy counter; if she’s the same person she was a knock-out high school girl and going out with one of the two brothers I just mentioned.

Tom Benigno  fka Tom Castagna
Tom Benigno fka Tom Castagna on August 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

The Lupo I remember well, was easy to distinguish. He was short, a bit fat, wore glasses. He hired me to clean the outside then I became an usher. I definitely wasn’t working there when you were manager. When I started, Dave and Mary were dating. My name is Tom, but I am not the Tom you are talking about. But there’s more to the story. The Mary you are talking about, who eventually became Asst. Manager under Lupo, eventually broke up with Dave, and started dating me. I wasn’t the cause of the break-up, but it did put a bit of a rift between Dave and me. Dave was a good guy. I understood. Mary strung me along for about a year to a year and a half. I was a dumb 18-19 year old, very fond of Mary. She was not nearly as fond of me. Eventually, I ended it. I was tired of being miserable. Fact is, she ended it a lot sooner by her actions,only it took me awhile to get the message. Now here’s a funny trivia fact. While I was in law school, Mary married, and her and her husband bought a house 2 doors away from mine.Though I found this quite disconcerting at the time (Mary was my first real girlfriend), and I was on my 2nd or 3rd girlfriend by then, I couldn’t believe it—of all the homes on Long Island! Truth be told, I mattered for naught. I got a laugh out of it then though, and still do.

JPDellova on August 16, 2015 at 1:42 am

Great Stuff! :–) Thanks for sharing it. Ironically I was just telling (a few hours ago) a young friend down here in Daytona about some of my long ago amorous misadventures. My late wife had a lot of Mary’s physical features, I would say “Have I mentioned lately that you’re way too beautiful for me?” and she’d turn bright red and would laugh. I used to call her “My lovely little piranha” and after five years she whacked me on the head — ‘I looked up piranha — you creep!’

That is definitely the Lupo I broke in. He was a better manager than me because he believed in the career. By the time I quit it was just a long drive for a low salary. I’d have quit sooner but I loved the staff. Most of them were only five or six years younger than myself and we always had a lot of fun on the job. I’m sure Dave is the guy I remember as Tom, he was a tallish kid with bright blond hair and his older brother, a much quieter person, must have been Tom. I don’t remember not liking any members of the staff. Sounds like we missed each other by a few weeks.

I remember The Gables as great place, with it’s gaping holes in the roof, unsafe back walls about to fall onto the street, and it’s great staff (I used to call them ‘The kiddie Corps’) who I still think of as good friends.

robboehm on August 16, 2015 at 10:24 am

Much earlier on I commented the place was a dump. As I read these comments it was even worse than I thought.

JPDellova on August 16, 2015 at 12:20 pm

The building was a small vaudeville house that UA didn’t put any money into. I don’t know how they got away with it. The first thing I did as manager was to write up a long list of obvious structural problems and some empty suite genius in the main office (at Great Neck) told me I was hired as a manager so I should just mind my business and manage, not pretend I was a structural engineer — that was the kind of thing everything who ran that kind of theater ran into if they tried to get some maintenance in the place. I was told by my district manager that the company was putting money into their “flagship” theaters and The Gables was just to be milked till it fell down! That it lasted at least five years after I left amazes me; the building inspector must have been totally corrupt.

I’m sure it was a terrific place fifty or so years earlier, when it had live shows. I used to go behind the screen to try to scrounge up things I needed for very basic repairs and it was a treasure trove of old signs and props, whatever. I’d worked at several similar theaters during the ‘60s, they all had their own sort of personality but they weren’t good money makers by the early 70’s, when the theater chains first began the multiplex idea. One of the reasons I quit is the regional manager told us at a meeting that they were planning to replace projectionists by using a new, simpler machine that the manager would operate in addition to his other duties. As far as I was concerned it was already an underpaid job and I wasn’t willing to take the next step to be a robot with them.

Yeah, the Gables was a dump by the time I got there, but it was also fun to work there. — As I said in the earlier post I had to go around putting pails under the worst roof leaks, outside there was a ground to roof crack in the brick wall that was expanding away from the theater; none of that never ended while I was managing the place and I personally reported these things to the main office and complained about the building not being even minimally maintained and warned that it might turn into a catastrophe before much longer. As I asked earlier, how could the owning company have gotten away with such disgraceful practices?

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment

Subscribe Want to be emailed when a new comment is posted about this theater?
Just login to your account and subscribe to this theater