by Terry Rogers
What was once Milford’s first Walmart before becoming a call center for Sitel may soon be a state-of-the-art movie theater in Milford, according to Arthur Helmick, owner of Middletown’s Westown Theater and Newark’s Main Street Theater.
“I have the building under contract,” Helmick said. “My intention is to turn it into a movie theater. Right now, we are doing our due diligence to determine how a movie theater would be received in Milford and what it would entail to retrofit the building for that use.”
Helmick’s company has a history of renovating and updating buildings for theaters. The Main Street Theater in Newark was dated and run-down when Helmick’s company purchased it in 2016. What was once the Newark Cinema Center, Main Street Theater underwent a year-long renovation at a cost of $3 million, turning it into a five-screen modern theater. Helmick’s company added reclining leather seats and a concession stand that featured local dishes, including Big Z Pizza and Bing’s Bakery rice krispie treats.
“I don’t do typical research,” Helmick explained. “I sat down with the City and they seemed pretty receptive to a theater going into that building. But, I didn’t stop there. I went to Wawa and shopping centers to talk to people to see what they thought about the project. It was overwhelming in favor of a theater in Milford.”
Helmick explained that Milford residents who have to travel to Midway in Lewes or AMC in Dover may choose to simply stay in rather than fight traffic to get to the movies, especially during summer months when traffic is heavy.
“Communities are looking for entertainment,” Helmick said. “People want to go out to dinner and a movie. It would be much better if they could frequent Milford restaurants before a movie rather than having to go to the beach or to Dover.”
Helmick explained that they are in the very preliminary stages right now and that he doesn’t know when a theater may open in the former Sitel building. He is seeking feedback from members of the Milford community to determine how successful a theater would be while he continues researching what it would cost to retrofit the building for that purpose. If he does open a theater in Milford, Helmick expects it to be similar to his Middletown and Newark locations.
MilfordLIVE has started a community petition where residents can show their support for the movie theater. It will be shared with Mr. Helmick and can be found at https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/movie-theatre-in-milford-de.