The Milford Cinema on East Summit Road in Milford Village has been operated by the Henn family for four decades, as its operations have been transferred from generation to generation. Tomorrow, Thursday, June 21 will mark the 40th anniversary of the Milford Cinema’s first movie showing, which occurred on the same date in 1972.
David Henn, 31, is currently in charge of the theater’s operations after he took over from his father, Tom Henn, in January 2010.
Before that, Tom Henn and his wife, Pam, began running the cinema in 1992 after they purchased it from Tom’s father, John, who originally had the idea for the cinema when a new shopping center was being constructed on Summit Road in 1969.
“This was all one floor,” John said. “There were two 15-foot stores in this building. We knocked the glass windows out in front and put a bulldozer in here and landscaped and cut the thing down and went from there.”
After a couple years of construction, the Milford Cinema showed its first movie, “The Groundstar Conspiracy” with tickets priced at $1.50 for adults, $1 for students, and 50 cents for children 12-years-old and under.
“I served the first popcorn to Harry Dodd of Highland, a friend of my dad’s,” Tom Henn said.
In its first year, the cinema was part of the United General Theaters franchise and used 16-millimeter film. But United General went “belly-up” a year later, John said.
He was then faced with the challenge of becoming an independent operation, which included paying off $90,000 in debt left by United General, in addition to making the switch to 35-millimeter film.
But the cinema started showing more first-run movies, including some of the very first summer blockbusters in the 1970s, including “Jaws” and “Star Wars.”
Over the years, Milford Cinema has given residents a chance to see a new blockbuster movie in a small theater tucked away from the major multiplexes — with reasonable prices to boot.
Major films shown at the cinema have included “E.T.” in the 1980s and “Titanic” in the 1990s.
This summer will be no exception, as the Milford Cinema will be showing Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” on Friday, June 22, “The Amazing Spider-Man” on Tuesday, July 3, and “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20.
Tickets are currently priced at $5 for adults and $4 for children 10-years-old and under. A large popcorn is $4.
Most of the movies that are screened there are family films that have ratings ranging from “G” to “PG-13,” with a few “R” rated exceptions over the years — such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Passion of the Christ.”
The cinema books movies through Clark Theatre Services.
“You have a personal relationship with people,” David Henn said. “You get to know hundreds of people by their first name and it sticks.”
In fact, most of the Henn family, ranging from John’s wife of 64 years, Kitty, to their great-grandchildren have worked in the theater in some form, whether it was working concessions or taking tickets.
Tom and his twin brother, Tim, in fact worked in the theater with their father when it first opened. After their father retired and moved to Florida, Dave and Phyllis Jenkins, Pam Henn’s parents, managed the cinema from 1984 to 1992. then, Tom picked up where his father left off.
“It’s a great feeling that my dad started a movie theater 40 years ago probably with the hopes to get his kids through school and give us a job,” Tom Henn said. “We all work second jobs. I drive a school bus, Dad was a paper salesman, and Dave worked in restaurants.”
David Henn said he is open to looking into other movie theater trends, such as 3-D showings, but that the challenge he is preparing for is the movie industry’s switch from film prints to digital technology.
“Within six months to a year, everything is going to be digital or satellite,” David Henn said. “There will be no more prints of movies. It will be disk drive or satellite.”
While said he knows the switch will take an investment, and he knows it will be worth it in order to carry on the cinema’s legacy and reputation that his father and grandfather built before him.
For more information, visit milford-cinema.com.