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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Modell's Had A Movie Theater In It ! (1969-71)



Someone has to document these little bits of department store history, so I guess it's gotta be me.
If you don't know, Modell's was the almighty department store serving Long Island in the 1960's and 1970's. (In 1988/89 they finally switched priorities to "sporting goods only" and shrunk the entire chain. As with most contemporary outlets ,now, they are completely generic and interchangeable with any other sneaker/sporting goods outlet).


But let's go back--way back to the Age of Aquarius; Modell's not only had the required "departments" (shoes, lighting, toys,men's woman's and children's clothes, pet supplies, etc.) --they also had a Beauty Salon, shoe repair, Men's Haircutter, a full supermarket (!) and an arcade with a dozen pinball machines and more. It was a near bio-sphere of cut-rate shopping--a city unto itself! The most unusual attraction, was the children's Movie Theater!
The theater was a 25 x 40' (approx.) make-shift room (I believe they used cheap plywood and paneling from the lumber department). There was a 16mm projector operated by a "matron" (the non-prison variety). The darkened dingy room had 5 or 6 cushioned benches (that came from God-knows-where). The cushioned parts were torn with the foam inside bits were scattered all over the floor along with popcorn and other kiddie debris. This would not have been so depressing but what made matters so grim was the fact that all they showed were Woody Woodpecker cartoons! Now, if you're like me, you probably find Woody Woodpecker to be the single most aggravating, headache inducing cartoon character ever created. (Woody was bascially formatted after Bugs Bunny, except without the cleverness and charm.)
The Kiddie theater had no door, so there was a constant block of light coming through as well as department store noises/people walking by. In hindsight, I believe the theater was merely there to contain kiddies while there parents shopped or had their hair done (it was located right next to the beauty salon). I wonder what the future holds for in-store kiddie theaters? Maybe plasma screens, surround sound and digitally remastered Woody Woodpecker cartoons with special features! (I have pictured an original ad here as well, from a Modell's Spring 1970 circular--it really happened and was not a scary dream! )

19 Comments:

At 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the theater as well as the conveyor belt that took your grocerys to the car. I was with my dad daughter and son in law talking about my memory of said theater they did not believe me and laughed. Thank you for being my support on this.

 
At 1:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember the theater as well as the conveyor belt that took your grocerys to the car. I was with my dad daughter and son in law talking about my memory of said theater they did not believe me and laughed. Thank you for being my support on this.

 
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mom took me to the Bay Shore Modells parking lot to see Santa arrive in a helicopter. Early 1970's.

 
At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First, in the Commack Modells there was a curtain in the doorway to keep out the light.

I had no idea there was a Modells in Bayshore, everyone I knew from that area went to the Commack store. (where was it?)

Here's a little bit of Trivia for those that went to the Modells in Commack. There is a grave yard smack in the middle of the parking lot. There long before they built the store.

Steve T.(formerly from East Northport)

 
At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Steve H - Formerly from Dix Hills said...

I remember the conveyor belt too...seemed pretty futuristic to me at the time. 'Course I was only 7 or 8. I could swear that they played 3 Stooges shorts in that theater as well. Can anyone corroborate?

 
At 6:44 PM, Blogger Greg Kapitan said...

Thank you for posing, I so remember!

 
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At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not true!!! They didn't ONLY play Woody Woodpecker cartoons. I recall watching Little Lulu cartoons in there as well when we were young while my mother shopped. This was one of my favorite memories of growing up and your article just threw so much dirt all over it. Too bad your memories aren't as good as mine were but perhaps your life in general isn't as good as mine is either....

 
At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is now a Home Depot

 
At 4:24 PM, Blogger Christine T. said...

I was just mentioning the children's movie theater in Modell's on Facebook, in the group "People Who Grew Up in East Meadow"! I was so glad I hadn't imagined that theater! Another friend remembered it too though, but others had trouble remembering where it was. I am so happy I could confirm it existed, and where! Thanks for sharing this!

 
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