“Bow Tie Cinemas Coming Soon,” the white pieces of paper taped to the windows of the empty Oceanside Waldbaum's read, along with the theater chain’s logo. Their appearance this summer prompted a number of Oceansiders to wonder whether a cinema was moving into the neighborhood.
“Something replacing Waldbaum's is overdue,” Oceanside Cove resident Art Feingold said of the defunct Long Beach Road supermarket, empty since 2015.
“I think Waldbaum's would be a fantastic location for a movie theater,” lifelong Oceansider Ken Jacoby said. And responding to a Herald Facebook inquiry, 15 other residents expressed a similar sentiment.
Valley Streamer Eren Basank thought so, too. After seeing the vacant space, he printed a handful of fliers and taped the announcements to the outside of the business. Basank, who is on the autism spectrum, loves movies. The 17-year-old has collected nearly 2,000 VHS tapes from various thrift stores. His favorite? The 2000 Academy Award-winning movie “Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe.
“Everywhere is a movie theater,” his mother, Ayse, said describing how he would occasionally print a handful of fliers from his computer, and they would go to an empty store he had identified as a potential location for a new theater.
“The Waldbaum's is closed,” Eren replied. “Seven screens.
“Pathmark is closed in Deer Park. Six screens,” he continued, rattling off the sites and the number of screens they could fit as he stared intently at Google Street View images on his phone of the empty storefronts. A former Sears in Riverhead, the empty Bally Total Fitness in Rockville Centre, all future movie theaters in Eren’s mind.
“He wants to change the whole world,” his mother said. “To design it.” His father, Vincent, said he believes Eren has a photographic memory of every location he’s driven past. While on trips with his family, he identifies empty storefronts big enough to house movie theaters. Then he researches the sites and determines what would be the most ideal theater chain to move in and how big the theater should be. “He’s very good with dimensions,” Vincent added.
It started with the shuttering of Valley Stream’s Sunrise Cineplex in 2015. “He was devastated,” Vincent said. The 12-screen theater has since been replaced with a shopping complex add-on to the neighboring Green Acres Mall. It was the last remaining movie theater in the neighborhood.
Eren has noticed, and laments, the recent decline in theater attendance, his parents said. The drop-off is a nationwide phenomenon.
“He sees that when he goes to the movies, it’s empty.” Vincent said. “He’s not really realizing why people don’t like to go to the movies anymore.”
The Oceanside Waldbaum's closed after chain owner Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, or A&P, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the second and final time in July 2015. Town of Hempstead officials reported that they had not received any applications for a movie theater at the site when the Bow Tie Cinemas fliers first appeared in July. Vincent contacted the Herald after it had reported on the existence of the fliers. A spokesperson for Bow Tie Cinemas could not be reached for comment.
Why Bow Tie Cinemas? Eren said he likes Showcase or AMC, but it’s Bow Tie’s chairs that are his favorite. Plus, it’s not too loud.
He would like to see them everywhere. Call it wishful thinking his mother said. “He’s making his dreams come true.”