Westown Movies is still four months away from completion, but the owners' vision for Middletown's first multiplex movie theater is already coming into focus.
"This is going to be the theater of tomorrow, today," said Rick Roman, who will help manage the $15 million independent theater under construction off Merrimac Avenue, immediately west of Walmart. "We think it's really going to be something special; not just for Middletown, but for the whole region."
The 44,500-square-foot multiplex will feature 12 auditoriums in total, including three with 32-foot-wide screens, six with screens that range in width from 38 to 42 feet, and two with screen widths between 45 and 48 feet.
Yet, it's the 12th auditorium that Roman says will truly set Westown Movies apart for other theaters in the area.
"We call it our GTX Theatre, which stands for Grand Theatre Experience," Roman said. "It will be our special large format theater with a wall-to-wall, 60-foot-wide screen, luxury seating with an extra six inches of leg room and a sound system unlike anything you've ever heard."
That's because the 300-seat GTX Theatre will feature the new Atmos surround sound technology first launched by Dolby last spring.
The format, which is compatible only with specially-produced films, supports up to 128 separate audio tracks and up to 64 speaker feeds, creating what the company bills as the most immersive sound technology available.
According to Dolby's website, Westown Movies would be the first theater between New York City and Washington, D.C. to feature the sound system, which is currently offered in less than 100 venues in the country and fewer than 10 on the East Coast.
Roman said tickets for the GTX auditorium will be a bit pricier than the other 11 theaters, although the exact cost has not yet been determined.
"It's still a little early for that," he said. "By the time we open, the whole market could be different."
Another unique aspect of the new theater will be its self-serve concession stand, Roman said.
"In a traditional theater, you get in line at the concession stand behind other people getting their popcorn and candy," he said. "Our concession stand will be more like a convenience store in that you'll get your own popcorn and soda and take it to a cashier. The idea is to eliminate lines and make it more convenient for our customers."
Theater goers also will be able to purchase their movie tickets on their phones, online, at self-service kiosks inside or at the same cashiers, he said.
The theater will employ 30 to 40 people when it opens sometime between Nov. 15 and Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 28, Roman said.
Until then, residents of the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area can stay up-to-date with the theater's progress on Facebook, Twitter and the website www.westownmovies.com.
Page 2 of 2 - "We're planning a grand opening event, although we haven't determined yet exactly what that will include," Roman said. "But we'd like to have a trial run and open house just to be sure everything is in place and to build some buzz in the community."
To that end, Westown Movies also is asking people to dress up like movie characters and march in the Peach Festival Parade on Aug. 17. Anyone interested in participating is asked to email email@example.com.
"All the people I've talked to can't wait for the theater to open," said Roxane Ferguson, executive director of the Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce "I really love that they're all about the movie-watching experience, but I think most people are probably just as excited that they won't have to drive to Glasgow or Wilmington anymore to see the newest films."