Middletown will unwrap an early Christmas present this weekend when the long-awaited 12-screen Westown Movies theater finally opens its doors.

Middletown will unwrap an early Christmas present this weekend when the long-awaited 12-screen Westown Movies theater finally opens its doors.

"Barring any unforeseen snags along the way, our plan is to have the theater ready for a grand opening on Friday," said Rick Roman, owner of the independent theater's Ohio-based management company. "We just got our final building approvals on Tuesday, so now we're in the process of getting our employees trained and ready to go."

If that plan holds, nearly 1,000 movie lovers will get an advanced screening of the 44,500-square-foot theater Thursday when Westown Movies hosts an invitation-only charity night to benefit Middletown's Big Mall Marathon, the Appoquinimink Foundation and Ronald McDonald House in Wilmington.

"We're so glad to have a venue like this in Middletown and I think it's so great that they're kicking off their arrival by helping out the local community," said Roxane Ferguson, the executive director of the Middletown Area Chamber of Commerce. "We're so excited to have this theater here because not only is it bringing jobs to the area, but it will also compliment the amazing culture we have here by bringing additional entertainment to the M.O.T.-area."

The $14 million movie theater broke ground in May and was initially scheduled to open by Thanksgiving, but heavy rains and material delivery issues pushed back the start date until this month. A planned Dec. 18 opening was then delayed a few days while the theater waited to receive its occupancy permit.

Roman said he's optimistic that residents of the Middletown-Odessa-Townsend area will find the final result to be worth the wait.

"Our mission is to make people smile and we feel pretty confident that they're going to smile when they step into our theater," he said. "It's going to be an experience unlike what they can get anywhere else in Delaware."

The first thing movie goers will likely notice upon entering the new theater is the 1,100-square-foot mural that hangs in the lobby, featuring Middletown landmarks such as the World War I Memorial in Cochran Square, the Everett Theatre and West Main Street, as well as scenes from this year's Peach Festival.

The self-serve concession stand underneath the mural also will feature uniquely Middletown fare, with snacks provided by Bruster's Real Ice Cream, Half Baked Patisserie, Pat's Pizza, Pretzel Boys and Smackerals by Michelle, along with typical popcorn and candy fare.

But Roman said it's the actual movie-watching experience that will truly set Westown Movies apart, particularly the deluxe GTX auditorium.

The crown jewel of the new theater features 300 luxury seats, a 2,200-square-foot screen and Dolby's Atmos surround sound that supports up to 128 separate audio tracks and up to 64 speaker feeds. According to Dolby's website, Westown Movies will be the first theater between New York City and Washington D.C. to offer the Atmos sound system, which is currently offered in less than 100 venues in the country and less than 10 on the East Coast.

The GTX theater will open with "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," while the films slated to open in the theater's other 11 auditoriums include "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues," "American Hustle," "The Book Thief," "Frozen," "Saving Mr. Banks," "Thor: The Dark World," "Tyler Perry's A Medea Christmas," and "Walking with Dinosaurs."

Adult tickets to the regular theaters will cost $11, while tickets for children and seniors will cost $8.50. Matinee tickets will be $9. GTX Theatre tickets will run an additional $3, with another $3 charge for 3-D glasses.

Theater goers can use a free app available on Google Play or iTunes to purchase tickets online without a service fee being added to the in-lobby price. The app is currently available for download, but can't be used to purchase tickets until the theater official opens.

Roman said holiday gift certificates to the theater also will be available at the theater, starting Friday.

"We've had unbelievable interest from the community on social media over the past couple of months and we're looking forward to a big opening week heading into Christmas," Roman said. "We've been working really hard to get to this point and we're really excited to cross the finish line."

For an exact opening time and movie schedule, visit Westown Movies Facebook page and look for their new website, www.westownmovies.com.