Middletown residents Duane and Doris Taylor love going to the movies.
So when the retired couple moved back to the area in August, they were excited to discover that a 12-screen Westown Movies theater soon would be opening in Middletown.
“We wanted to check it out for ourselves as soon as it opened,” Duane said as he and Doris purchased tickets to see “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” during the theater’s opening night on Dec. 20. “It looks really nice and modern. But the best part is we don’t have to drive the Peoples Plaza in Bear or the mall in Dover anymore just to see a movie.”
Hundreds of people visited the $14 million theater during its opening weekend.
But not all of them were there to watch a movie.
“I’m buying gift cards to give to my employees as Christmas gifts,” said Cathy Capon, the owner of Square Dog Ranch in Townsend. “They’re all local and this is the new fun thing, plus they’re all dating age and this way I can be sure they’ll spend it on having fun, instead of buying gas or something.”
Capon wasn’t alone in her gift card purchase.
Hayley Mercado, a clerk at the new, independently-owned theater, estimated that she sold close to 700 gift cards in the first 90 minutes after the theater officially opened its doors.
Meanwhile, some visitors said they were using the theater’s opening to mark a special moment of their own.
“It’s my son Aidan’s fourth birthday, so we decided to doing something fun and local by coming to the movies,” said Middletown resident Mike Rosche.
“I can tell it’s better than the other theaters already,” added Rosche’s 10-year-old daughter Shannon. “It’s beautiful.”
Camille and Jerome Upchurch of Townsend took advantage of the theater’s opening by planning a date night to see “American Hustle.”
“We live in The Estates at St. Anne’s across the street, so it was nice not to have to travel 20 minutes to Bear,” said Camille, before pointing to the 1,100 square-foot mural in the theater lobby that depicts several Middletown landmarks. “That definitely caught my eye. I like the way it represents that small town feel of the area.”
The highest praise came from movie goers who caught “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” in Westown Movies’ 300-seat GTX Theatre, which features a 2,200-square-foot screen and Dolby’s cutting-edge Atmos surround sound technology.
Page 2 of 2 - “The sound makes it feel like you’re actually in the movie,” 15-year-old Middletown resident Tyler Murray said. “I honestly didn’t realize it would be that good. It’s way better than every other theater I’ve been to.”
Ralph, Debbie and Tyler DeFriece of Middletown agreed.
“If theaters were airplanes, this would be like riding first class,” Tyler said. “It surprised me and made a lot of other theaters seem subpar.”
Debbie said her favorite part was the comfortable seats, while Ralph said he liked the Atmos sound system, which is currently offered in less than 100 venues in the country and less than 10 on the East Coast.
“It felt like the dragon was breathing down your neck,” he said. “It was awesome.”