Gary Dennis was born and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After attending the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Arts, Gary received his Bachelor of Arts in Theatre, with a minor in Theatre History (specializing in New York City) from Brooklyn College.
Growing up in a house of insanely competitive know it alls, Gary discovered a way of getting some parental attention by developing his passion for New York City history as well as for movie history. At the dinner table, it was not just who was loud enough, but who knew the most. Gary was / is loud and knows enough. Gary devoured New York City history books along with the biographies of movie stars, writers, directors and producers of Hollywood’s “golden age”. Gary was probably the only kid on the block who had heard of Irving Thalberg and understood Thalberg’s contributions to motion picture history. To remain steps ahead of his brothers in the contest for parental attention and approval, Gary also cultivated a deep appreciation and knowledge of Vaudeville theatres, movie palaces, the architects who designed them, the significance of each theatre and their locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City.
After working as an actor (SAG, AFTRA and AEA) for a few years, Gary turned his “day job” into a full time passion. As Gary said, “I did not want to smell like food, like too many other actors who waited tables, so I took a job that involved one of my greatest passions, movies.” For ten years, Gary managed Movie Place, one of New York City’s largest independent and best (New York Magazine Best of New York 1997) movie rental stores, and in 1998, he became the proud owner of the store.
Movie Place was one of New York City’s original independent video stores and, under Gary's guidance, became a longtime favorite video store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. During 23 years of business, Gary developed one of the most extensive film inventories of any store in the country, with a library that included one of the best collections of American film, from early silent pictures through the Golden Age of Hollywood to the rise of the American independent film industry. The store also boasted one of the most comprehensive foreign film collections in the country, including films from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. Housed in a quaint, if crumbling brownstone, the store was a beloved neighborhood hangout where people came to schmooze with Gary (a popular local celebrity and movie critic) and his staff about the latest Wes Anderson movie or debate the merits of the studio system.
In 2006, with the Movie Place as his calling card, Gary launched a one-man effort to rename 103rd Street Humphrey Bogart Place, in honor of the late actor who grew up there. In his argument before Community Board 7, Gary pointed out that Mr. Bogart was a not only the internationally recognized face of American film, but a product of the Upper West Side as well. Gary’s efforts paid off with not only a street renaming (a big deal in this city), but a plaque on the city-owned townhouse memorializing the structure as the childhood home (1899–1923) of Mr. Bogart. A ceremony was held on June 24, 2006, hosted by Gary and attended by various New York City commissioners, elected officials and (most importantly) Lauren Bacall and her son, Stephen Bogart. For his efforts, Gary was the subject of numerous articles in The New York Times Link to New York Times article Another link to the New York Times Another link again to the New York Times and was honored with “The Westie” award given by Manhattan Media (publisher of The Westsider, Our Town, and other weekly newspapers around Manhattan).
Despite this wonderful addition to the neighborhood and the acclaim it brought to the store, Movie Place became the victim of greedy landlords fueled by the raging real estate boom in the city, who more than doubled the store's rent in the Fall of 2006. A valiant petition drive, spear-headed by some resourceful (and frustrated) customers turned the store into the “poster child” for dying “mom and pop” businesses in New York City (click here for link to The New York Times article), but to no avail. In December 2006, Gary was forced to close the business and in January 2007 sold to Columbia University one of the greatest private collections of DVDs and videos ever assembled.
Since then, Gary has focused on parenting his two young children, but keeps his feet wet in the movie world, consulting in various forums where a film "know it all" is needed. He recently gave a well attended power point presentation of the criminal and entertainment history of the area between 96th street and 103rd street on the west side. Called a “film scholar without portfolio” by the New York Times, Gary has also become licensed as an official New York City tour guide, which is just a formality, since he has been lecturing for years, to anyone who'll listen, about every corner of this great city.