Movie theater plan continues in Milford

MILFORD — After more than 30 years without a movie theater to call its own, Milford may soon get reeled back into action.

The Milford Theatre, now occupied by Jesus Love Temple in downtown Milford, was the site of local entertainment for a long time, staying open from 1949 until the early 1970s. The Milford Plaza Cinema opened shortly after and closed in the early 1980s after operating for about a decade.

Arthur Helmick plans to bring the excitement back with a nine-screen movie theater in the former Walmart and Sitel building located at 999 N. DuPont Highway next to Milford Commons Shopping Center.

“We hope to have around 1,000 seats, recliners, and large format 60-foot screens. There’s no theatre between Lewes and Dover. This is in the middle which is what makes it nice. It’s an underserved market,” Mr. Helmick said.

“In Milford, it’s a drive to go somewhere. The entertainment value is there. A lot of people who move into rural areas, they’re very community based and driving a long way is just not something they want to do. People want things in their own communities.

“We see across the country that the big theaters, 24-screens, are going away and we’re going back to the nine-screens or smaller theaters. People just want new movies. And you don’t need 24-screens to do that.”

The entrepreneur already owns several businesses upstate, Westown Movies in Middletown and Cox Auto Sales, for example, and said he hopes this venture south of the canal is profitable, as well.

The building has been vacant now for several years, leaving the area void of activity. Several restaurants nearby, such as Bob Evans and Wendy’s have recently closed shop, citing a lack of business.

Mr. Helmick, however, is convinced that a business in the entertainment sector will help spur the right kind of activity.

An extensive remodel of the building will be needed to finish the movie theater which he hopes to open in late 2019.

“We will have to gut the insides out, so really, it will just be the walls that are staying. We’re going to have the latest in projection, too – Christie projectors. It’s the newest thing. There’s not a single one to my knowledge close by,” he said.

The new style of projectors will use laser technology to offer the “best picture possible,” Mr. Helmick said confidently.

“There’s not many movie theaters that are new that are done. But the conversions will start including is new technology across the country. The Christie lasers are excellent,” he said. “But, if you went to a theater, you probably can’t always tell that it’s new technology. If it’s darker or dimmer inside, it’s probably a bulb that burnt out.

“But with this one, this should be good for 10 years or more and won’t do that. It will be subliminally better. You won’t know why you liked it better, but you’ll know you liked it better.”

The theater will also feature its own snack area with a convenience store feel offering a one-stop shop for movie goers from around the community.

A private screening room will provide a unique party or meeting space with 35 seats and room for a table between the seats and a large screen.

“You could bring in your own content. Sports? A family movie? It will be small like that and affordable to use,” Mr. Helmick explained. “Movie theaters often have birthday rooms where you can go before or after you watch the movie and then eat cake. Here, you’ll be able to do all of that in the same room with the table down in the front.”

The new offerings will mean that entertainment consumers in the Milford and nearby communities could have a significantly shorter commute for a good time. The closest movie theaters are in Dover and Lewes, at least a 20-minute drive in either direction.

“The movie theater to me is probably going to be one of the best things to happen to Milford. It’s going to increase the traffic to all of the businesses around there. I think Milford’s been waiting for this for a long time,” Milford Mayor Archie Campbell said.

“I think the movie theater is going to change the scene around here. People from Magnolia, Harrington, Felton, maybe even Seaford, are going to come up here to go to the movies instead of fighting the traffic. My wife and I, we’re movie people. For the movie to be here, I’m like a little kid in a candy store.”

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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