Only about a month after the Hempstead Town Board granted the Franklin Square movie theater historic status, it was under new ownership.
Jasmin Frankel and Jay Levinson signed a lease for the theater at the end of November, and took over its operations shortly thereafter. Now, Frankel said, she and Levinson would like to make the theater more family-friendly, with $5 tickets on Tuesdays and discounted tickets for seniors on Thursdays. Tickets would only cost a maximum of $8, she noted, and the theater will be able to host events for all of the local schools and camps.
“It’s a local neighborhood theater,” Frankel told the Herald, adding that she and Levinson, who owns the Bellmore Playhouse, are considering adding a room for birthday parties, and have already installed digital menus.
The movie theater was originally built in 1933 by famed architect R. Thomas Short, and was constructed by renowned theater-builder Abraham Schwartz , who constructed, owned and operated a number of theaters in New York City and Long Island. In its heyday, movie-goers would get dressed up for the theater, where they could get dinnerware for free, or win money on Bank Night.
In 2013, it became a Bow Tie Cinemas, and in 2018, developer Nauman Hussain bought the property adjacent to the theater to build a three-story self-storage facility. The plans did not include the demolition of the movie theater, but Franklin Square residents feared Hussain would demolish the structure to build a parking lot.
In response, Franklin Square residents petitioned the town for a landmark status, citing its Art Deco motif, known for its combination of historic and then-modern designs. Katherine Tarascio, who led the efforts, argued that the building’s exterior has not changed significantly since it was erected by Schwartz in 1933, and the original brickwork is still noticeable.
“Designation would protect the exterior of the Deco theater from insensitive renovations,” Tarascio said, “and preserve this example of Art Deco style for hopefully many years to come.”
The Town Board ultimately seemed to agree, voting unanimously on Oct. 2 to grant the theater historic status. “It is very important for us to preserve the beauty that makes people want to live in the Town of Hempstead,” then-Supervisor Laura Gillen said before the vote.
To learn more about the theater, follow Franklin Square Cinemas on Facebook and Instagram, or email FranklinSquareMovies@gmail.com.