A Tradition of Giving: Charley Moss earns Hassanein Humanitarian Award

Cinemas Features

“Well, it is very flattering.”

Charley Moss is both honored and daunted by the recognition bestowed upon him by his industry peers. Although it may be hard to believe after so many years in the movie theatre business, “I am not used to being in the spotlight. So, frankly, this is a little intimidating to me,” Moss confides. “The thought of having to make a speech is terrifying. Andreas, I may nominate you to make the speech for me… Receiving the Salah M. Hassanein Humanitarian Award is very flattering and it is a wonderful achievement. I am very pleased to be chosen.”

Charley Moss has long supported our industry charities, but he really gets excited when talking about Variety-The Children’s Charity, where he served for more than a decade. “I served as president for seven years and am chairman now.” Tooting his horn just a little, he notes, “During that time we changed the focus of Variety from its traditional direction to a more grass-roots approach. For a long time Variety had been giving money to larger medical organizations that help children. While this is a perfectly legitimate and justifiable philosophy, as well as a good plan of business for doing good, I felt very strongly about refocusing Variety on helping children through the arts.”

Moss was able to convince his fellow board members “to be true to our roots,” he says. “Our roots are in the motion picture arts, in entertainment, and we are now helping kids through arts and educational activities. I do not mean to take anything away from the medical focus, because that is obviously of critical importance as well.”

As a businessman, “I also felt, quite frankly, that we got much more bang for our buck. I tried to approach my tenure as if I were running a business. I would ask, ‘What is the most efficient way to use the revenue and achieve the best results while keeping our costs down?’ We determined that a $10,000 grant to two or three different community groups could reach 500 children and youth, if not more. At a major medical institution,” Charley opines, “that same grant is more than likely going to go to overhead and there is no direct one-on-one result.”

The change in direction was “180 degrees in terms of the way we operate,” he feels. “We can now affect the lives of well over a 1,000 kids each year with our grants. I think it is a much more efficient way of helping. Again, not to take anything away from somebody else’s philosophy, but this just happens to be mine… It has proven to be successful, and that is very satisfying to me personally. Our work has a direct impact in the communities that we serve, covering the entire Tri-State area, where we are trying to create a one-on-one with all of these kids.”

Charley’s own kids had first-hand experience with their father’s way of doing good things. His daughter, Elizabeth Moss-Ohrberg, tells us a story that illustrates Charley’s care and caring—not only for others, but also for his guests. “I remember being at Movieland in Yonkers to watch National Lampoon’s Vacation and seeing the fundraising trailer for the Will Rogers Institute,” she recalls. “When the ushers came down the aisle to collect donations, a woman sitting behind us in the theatre was complaining that they were asking for money. When the movie was over, my dad turned around and explained to her what Will Rogers Institute does and introduced himself as the owner of the theatre. He gave her free passes and said, ‘I am sorry that you felt inconvenienced and I’d love you to still come back.’ With passes in her hand, the woman looked at her daughter and said, ‘I feel like I have just met Mr. Wally.’ That story comes up a lot,” Liz Moss assures with a laugh. “That is just a perfect example of how all this comes together and what my dad does, both for the business and the community and for our family.”

Although he feels this might be “self-serving to say,” her brother Ben mentions it anyway. “I am just so incredibly proud to be able to carry on such a rich history. And, in particular, to say how proud I am to see Charley get this award… All of the charitable and humanitarian work that he does is really very much under the radar. He has never been the kind of guy who does those things just so that he can be recognized. Charley will only reluctantly tell you about it,” Ben assures. “And then, only in a context where he can be sure that it is about the work and what needs to be accomplished.” As a son, business partner and fellow community supporter, “that is a tremendous legacy [to uphold.] It is really wonderful to see him recognized… This is an incredible body of good work that he has done for so many others.”

Congratulations, Charley, on behalf of all the readers of Film Journal International