by Terry Rogers
Arthur Helmick, who owns two movie theaters in northern Delaware, says that he plans to open a new movie theater in Milford by the end of 2019. The new theater, which will be housed in the old Walmart/Sitel building next to Food Lion, will have nine screens with one large-format screen.
“This theater will be much like the Westown Theater in Middletown,” Helmick said. “It will have recliner seating and offer a self-serve cafeteria style food service area. The entire theater will be state-of-the-art with the latest sound systems and projection equipment. We also plan to have a bar so alcohol will be available.”
Helmick said that the plans are currently ready to present to the City of Milford. Once the City approves the plans he hopes to begin construction. His goal is to begin demolition of parts of the building in early 2019.
“There is some demolition that will be necessary,” Helmick explained. “We need to tear out the interior of the building and there are parts of the roof as well as other sections that need to be demolished. This was designed as a Walmart, so it needs some structural changes to work as a movie theater.”
One addition that Helmick hopes to add is a small screening room with a 20-foot screen and about 30 seats. The room would be available to rent for parties and other gatherings.
“One of the things we get calls about all the time at our other theaters is rental options,” Helmick said. “We can provide someone with a party area, but they want to be able to watch a movie as well. If you only have 10 or 15 people at the party, they get lost in the big theater or we have to ask them to share the theater with others. Our plan is to use modern technology, like an iPad or other connection device, that would allow anyone who rents the area to start the movie when they want to start it. Someone could even rent it for a Super Bowl party or to screen a small, private film.” He said that he does not think there is anything similar in Delaware which is why he saw a need to include it in the new theater.
Helmick has experience renovating and updating buildings for use as theaters. His company purchased both the Westown Theater the Main Street Theater in Newark, updating the buildings and adding fresh, local dishes to the concession stand. When he decided to explore whether a theater would work in Milford, he not only sat down with the City, he also stopped in at Wawa, Walmart and other locations in town to seek feedback from the community. He said that he was met with significant support when speaking with people who lived or worked in Milford.
An online petition garnered over 2,500 signatures and over 1,000 comments in support of the new venture.
“My family would love a movie theater in Milford,” Frank Wisniewski commented. “We certainly would be regulars and know many neighbors who would also attend. After moving her from Baltimore five years ago, we missed going to the movies locally and would appreciate not having to travel far, especially in the summer.” Chris Bennett commented that he and his wife go to the movies two or three times per month and that they would love to avoid traveling to Lewes or Dover to do so.
Helmick said that he appreciates the support he has gotten from the City and from residents who are excited to see a theater in Milford again. He is looking forward to providing them with first-run movies as well as a unique movie experience.
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