by Terry Rogers
Although it has appeared that the old Walmart/Sitel building in Milford has been sitting vacant for the past few months, Arthur Helmick said that his company has been working hard preparing the building for the demolition necessary to open a new movie theater. Helmick, who owns several movie theaters in New Castle, explained that it has taken time to draw up plans and get the first phase of permits to begin demolition.
“Until you take on a project of this size, you have no idea how much is involved,” Helmick said. “Because we plan to use half the building for the theater, there were safety measures we had to take in the other half. We have not yet decided what we will do with the half we are not using, but state and local building codes required us to keep certain safety measures in place. This along with drawing up plans and preparing the interior of the building for demolition took a little extra time.”
The new theater will have state-of-the-art equipment, including laser projectors and power-operated reclining seats. Helmick explained that he is ahead when it comes to ordering things for the new theater but he will be unable to control delays in shipping, contractor issues or supply shortages.
“We are tearing off the entire roof in order to make room for the screens we will need,” Helmick said. “Once the roof is on, we will begin working on the interior. A construction fence is up now because the roof demolition should start very soon. Now, if we have ten days of rain after the roof is removed, that will delay construction as we will need to dry everything inside before we begin working. Hopefully, that will not happen.”
Helmick has obtained the first phase of permits he needs for the demolition, saying that the City of Milford has been excellent to work with in this project. Plans have been drawn up and approved which means only weather, contractor or supply delays could slow the process. He hopes to have the theatre open by the end of the year, preferably by Thanksgiving. Should there be any delays in construction, he said the latest he intends to have the theater open is March 2020.
“The realtor for the building has been telling me for years that Milford is a missed market,” Helmick said. “When I came down to do my own survey about whether a movie theater would work here, I was shocked when I talked to people at Wawa. When I asked where they went, I expected to hear Dover or Rehoboth, but many of those I spoke to actually said they went to Salisbury to the movies. When I thought about that, it kind of made sense. To get to Dover or Midway, people have to travel on Route 1 and, in the summer, that is an area most locals avoid. It seemed crazy to me that people would drive that far to the movies.”
Helmick pointed out that Milford is growing and that his conversations with residents have convinced him that the theater will do well in the town. He said even the studios are thrilled that there will be a new movie theater in town. He often tells people that going to the movies is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment.
“They always kind of roll my eyes when I say that,” Helmick said. “I point out that they get almost three hours of entertainment for $10-$20. Try going to a professional baseball game or a concert for $10 or $20. People then say that the food at movie theaters is expensive. I point out that no one makes them buy food there. Even without buying food, a ticket to a baseball or football game is $50 and that doesn’t include the high-priced food you get in a stadium.”