Jerry Smith, Delaware News Journal Published 9:57 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2018 | Updated 11:29 a.m. ET Oct. 18, 2018

Arthur Helmick talked to a lot of people in Milford about the need for a movie theater.

What the Delaware businessman learned was that residents said one was long overdue in the town of nearly 11,000 people.

That was all he needed to hear.

Helmick plans to open a nine-screen, state-of-the-art movie theater called Milford Movies in the old Walmart (and later Sitel) building on U.S. 113 by the end of next summer.

The old Walmart building and one-time call center in Milford is under contract to become a nine-screen movie theater by the end of summer 2019.Buy Photo
The old Walmart building and one-time call center in Milford is under contract to become a nine-screen movie theater by the end of summer 2019. (Photo: Jerry Smith/The News Journal)

He said the market is underserved, making it a perfect place for his third Delaware theater.

People in Milford have to drive 25 miles north to the AMC Classic 14 in the Dover Mall or 22 miles south to Movies at Midway in Rehoboth Beach to catch a first-run movie.

“The town wants it and we feel it is the next growth area because it’s in the middle of the state,” Helmick said. “If you move somewhere, you want to have entertainment options. Movies are still one of the most inexpensive nights out.”

Helmick said retrofitting the old Walmart building with large reclining seats and the state’s first laser projectors will cost about $12 million.

Paige Harper, who recently moved to Milford from Magnolia, said she and her husband are movie lovers who drive to Dover and Rehoboth Beach four times a month.

“You either have to go up or down, there is nothing in between,” she said. “This is a good thing for Milford. There aren’t many entertainment options here, so this is perfect for my family.”

An online petition on Milford Live!, a weekly publication put out by former Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe, has been signed by more than 2,500 people who say they want another movie theater in their town.

The Milford Plaza Cinema was the last true movie theater in Milford. It opened in 1973 and closed in the early 1980s.

“Make it so. I hate driving 20 miles to see a first run movie,” said one commenter. “It’s a great idea whose time has come. ”

“I was born in Milford and we had one at one time [and] it was awesome to be able to go to a movie here in your own town instead of fighting traffic,” another commenter wrote. “I stopped going to the movies [but] if this movie theater opens I will surely be right in there watching a movie with my popcorn in hand.”

In March 2017, Helmick and business partner Rick Roman turned the old Cinema Center 3 in Newark into a modern theater called Main Street Movies 5.

It became the city’s first-ever movie house outfitted with luxurious recliners, a trend most movie theaters are now following.

Tale of the tape: Delaware’s 4 newest movie theaters

Helmick teamed with Roman on the $14 million, 12-screen Westown Movies in 2013.

That complex features a 300-seat theater with a 2,200-square-foot screen and Dolby sound.

Middletown’s Westown Movies was opened in 2013 by Arthur Helmick and business partner Rick Roman. Helmick is planning to open a nine-screen movie theater in Milford by the end of summer 2019.Buy Photo
Middletown’s Westown Movies was opened in 2013 by Arthur Helmick and business partner Rick Roman. Helmick is planning to open a nine-screen movie theater in Milford by the end of summer 2019.

Helmick said he also will be opening a new state-of-the-art theater in Deptford, New Jersey, in the coming year.

Shupe said bringing a movie theater to Milford has been more than two years in the making. He said town officials sat down with four movie theater groups and Helmick stepped up.

He said the new movie theater will help address two problems Milford has experienced since growing from just over 7,000 people in 2000 to its current population.

The first is the decline of the north side, which Shupe said has undergone a resurgence of sorts in the past few years with the rehabilitation of several businesses. That will now include the old vacant Walmart building.

“That area has needed some TLC for quite some time,” Shupe said. “This will hopefully be a shot in the arm.”

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