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Gus Mollasis teaches the magic of movies on Longboat Key

Gus Mollasis loves to display different items relating to cinema in Sarasota Estate Auction.
Gus Mollasis loves to display different items relating to cinema in Sarasota Estate Auction.
Photo by Petra Rivera
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Gus Mollasis’ best tie is his "Casablanca" tie. 

“My middle name is Spielberg,” said Mollasis. “It is sort of a stage name that everyone in my class calls me, Gussie Spielberg.”

"At The Movies with Gus Mollasis" has been a Longboat Key staple since 2010 when the Education Center was still at the Centre Shops. Now at the Education Center at Temple Beth Israel, it has continued to bring people back to the golden age of cinema and help them slow down in today's fast-paced world.

Gus Mollasis with a "Casablanca" painting at Sarasota Estate Auction.
Photo by Petra Rivera

“I know what it is to move fast. I’m doing it all the time,” said Mollasis. “But there is something about when you sit everyone down in front of the big screen. Watching movies on streaming and on your phones is not the same. You can still be so distracted. Being able to fully experience a movie in a theater makes you think deeper about it and realize that life is so much more than these little screens.” 

Mollasis fell in love with cinema as a child when he first saw Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” This was the start of a beautiful friendship. He loved how classic films taught him about life’s lessons and could always bring him back to the moment.

He then started to watch a show called “Bill Kennedy at the Movies.” Kennedy showed different films, interviewed stars and gave commentary. This was a picture-perfect view of how Mollasis could share his love for film with others. 

Mollasis graduated with a journalism and psychology degree from Wayne State University in 1982 while taking film classes during his studies. After a few years of working in communication jobs, Mollasis followed the yellow brick road from Detroit to find his home in Sarasota. He moved here in 1994 because of its lively art scene.

In 2002, Mollasis started his television show, “At The Movies with Gus Mollasis.” It ran from 2002 to 2011. He worked closely with the Sarasota Film Festival and Sarasota Film Society’s Cine-World Film Festival to give local independent and student filmmakers a chance to showcase their films. He also interviewed many noteworthy guests on his show such as Billy Crystal, Jane Seymour, Tony Curtis, Ed Norton and Jackie Mason. 

Gus Mollasis with a "Godfather" painting at Sarasota Estate Auction.
Photo by Petra Rivera

“At the Movies with Gus Mollasis” kicked off his teaching career. After discovering his show, Education Center program manager Susan Goldfarb thought a film class would be a perfect fit for Longboat and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Mollasis now teaches 150 classes a year at the Education Center at Temple Beth Israel every season.

Based on movies at the local theaters, Mollasis chooses new movies to show every week. He emphasizes the importance of going to theaters to watch films so students can fully immerse themselves in the experience. Mollasis doesn’t watch most of the films until he assigns them to his classes. He wants to be on the same playing field as his students to have an authentic discussion. 

After the students watch the film in theaters on their own time, Mollasis will lead them in a lively discussion based on it. His classes range from new movies to the Hollywood classics to discussing great lines from films throughout history. 

“I'm always looking for something that moves me in a film,” said Mollasis. “That I can empathize with something. This is my rule about a great film. If a film can make you laugh, cry and think, it has a chance to be a masterpiece.’”

Goldfarb said students come back year after year because of his immense knowledge of cinema and how he encourages them to connect movies with their lives and memories.

When he is not at the Education Center, he teaches at Burns Court Cinema in Lakewood Ranch. He is a senior writer at Sarasota Scene Magazine. Mollasis wants to start up his “At The Movies with Gus Mollasis” show again and turn it into a podcast as well. 

Mollasis has produced multiple films and shows throughout the years. He is the co-creator of the PBS series, “Diamonds Along the Highway,” which focuses on Florida’s people, places and history. He works for Mars Vision Productions and is the founder of the Write Ideas Ink production company. He is currently working on a film about his father’s life. 

Along with teaching, writing and producing, Mollasis is the director of marketing and sales at Sarasota Estate Auction. He sprinkles his love of cinema throughout the display of the store, rounding up the usual suspects of paintings of Judy Garland, “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.” 

He also uses the auction house to provide opportunities during the summer for people to discuss cinema. Recently, he showed “Casablanca” and “The Godfather.” He plans to do other film showings while showcasing items related to the films throughout the next couple of months leading into the season. 

“I love it when I see it click for someone,” said Mollasis. “Either I am telling them what I think about the film or they are telling me an observation, there is always that click, that amazement of realizing what the filmmaker was trying to do. It's a gift when you see how the story moves someone.”



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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