By Hannah Reich Berman

On Monday, January 19, putting aside our distaste for war movies, two friends and I decided to see the much-acclaimed movie American Sniper. Big mistake! It was the mother of all war movies and none of us enjoyed it. It is not a feel-good film. An important film? Probably. Well made? Certainly. But it is not a happy picture. By the time we left the theater, we felt as if we had been in a war. We were wiped out.

The entire day was a weird one, and the weirdness began as soon as I opened my eyes. As is my unhappy custom, I awoke early that morning and turned on the Long Island News Channel to see what delightful bit of local news I had missed during the night. To my surprise, the first news I heard was that the movie theater that we were going to was closing as of that evening. The following day, Tuesday, January 20, the place would be darkened and the doors forever closed.

Lest my reporting here seem overly dramatic, let me assure you it is not. The Sunrise Multiplex, near the Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, is practically a landmark. Built on the grounds of what was once a drive-in theater, it has stood for many years–in spite of having a disturbing history. In 1990, a shooting there left a teenage boy dead and three people seriously wounded. When word of the shooting got out, local residents were frozen with fear and most of them never again went to that theater and didn’t allow their children to do so.

There were numerous meetings with the mayor, theater staff, police officials, and security experts to determine what steps could be taken to better protect moviegoers. So it was decided that metal detectors would be installed. Few movie houses followed suit but, from that day forward, at the Sunrise Multiplex, every patron had to pass through metal detectors and every handbag was searched.

At the time, there was more security in that theater than at an airport–and nobody was flying anywhere. In spite of that heightened security, however, most people never got past the horror of the shooting and, for them, the theater remained off-limits. My late husband, Arnie, and I, were not among those people. We figured it was safer there than at any other movie house, where, unfortunately, the same thing could happen.

And we were not alone. Hubby and I often saw other moviegoers there, but we never again encountered large crowds. We did not have to hunt for a spot in the massive parking lot or race inside to secure choice seating. It was a pleasure! It did not occur to us that this scenario would be permanent and that, with the theater remaining mostly empty most of the time, its days were numbered. But now, 25 years later, it has happened. The theater is no more.

Last week, as my buddies Esther and Zena and I headed to that theater, I informed them that this would be the last day this movie house would be operational. Neither of them had heard the news and they were skeptical, but the box-office clerk confirmed my bulletin. I felt like a genius because I had scooped my friends. But my pride was soon to be eroded. No genius am I!

It felt momentous to know that we would be among the last patrons who would see a film in that theater. As usual, the place was practically empty. We entered and took our seats. But within seconds, a woman walked in and sat directly behind us. She must have been lonely and figured she would like some human contact. Unfortunately, she soon began some serious coughing. The harsh hacking sound left us feeling uncomfortable, but only Esther was quick enough to unabashedly suggest that we change our seats.

The woman overheard Esther and assured us that her cough was caused by her allergies and that she was not sick. Undeterred, Esther wisely suggested that she might not be sick, but if she continued to cough we might be unable to hear the dialogue. Zena and I looked at Esther and then at each other but we didn’t budge. Sap that I am, I felt sorry for the lady. She had obviously sat near us for company, and I hated to abandon her. So I made the brilliant suggestion that if her coughing continued and disturbed us, we could move then. The decision was made and we remained where we were. The theater grew dark and we watched the film.

The lady stopped coughing after about ten minutes, but apparently the damage was done. The next day, Tuesday, I woke with an annoying cough, and by Wednesday I had what I assumed was a nasty cold. Who has not had one of those? But by the time my daughters convinced me to see the doctor; I was too weak to walk and had to be assisted. It took Doc less than five minutes to inform me that my temperature was over 101 and that I had the flu! But by then I could hardly hear what was being said to me. I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. When I arrived home, I crawled into bed, while my daughter went to pick up the Tamiflu that Doc had prescribed.

Has anyone ever seen the packaging on this medication? It is one terrific drug and it immediately lessens the unpleasant flu symptoms–providing one can open it! Each capsule is wrapped in a type of mini-blister pack. First, the user has to find the edge of the paper that covers soft foil in order to push the capsule through the foil. Try it sometime, folks! But try it when you are so sick that your fingers do not respond to your commands. The packaging on this medication must have been devised by a sadist. My daughter opened the first one for me and then offered to open all the rest of them. But, not wanting to detain her or to be a burden, I foolishly assured her that I would be able to handle it myself. Ha!

The following day, I learned that Zena was sick and weak and had also been diagnosed with the flu. She too was given Tamiflu. Until she reminded me about the Typhoid Mary dame that had sat behind us at the movie, I had completely forgotten about that woman and had no idea whom I had come into contact with that might have made me ill. So much for my being a genius! A day later, I called Esther and learned that she had a wicked cold. Not fun–but at least it was not the flu.

For the three of us, that tiresome movie eventually ended and the theater is now permanently closed. Hopefully, Typhoid Mary is not infecting anyone else these days. In the meantime, Zena and I struggle daily with getting to the Tamiflu capsules. If I ever again have to take this medication, I hope I will remember to tell the person making the purchase for me not to leave the store until someone opens every little blister pack and puts the capsules in a bottle–which is where they should be in the first place. I also hope to remember that the next time Esther makes a suggestion, I will listen. In the meantime, I will say only that “it’s a wrap,” in more ways than one.

That’s the way it is! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.


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