Tilton 9

The Tilton 9's new owners, Frank Theatres, plan to renovate the Northfield movie theater starting at the end of the month. The project is expected to be completed by May.

Anthony Smedile

NORTHFIELD - Another business is closing, but this time it's a sign of confidence in the local market.

The Tilton 9's new owners plan to close the theater for a few months to add new seating and carpets, digital projectors, 3-D capabilities and an 80-foot-wide screen.

"It will give it a real new feel and hopefully dazzle some people," said Rob Reynolds, chief operating officer for Frank Theatres. "The Tilton was always a nice theater, but it aged. It needs a makeover."

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Reynolds said the company still needs municipal permits and final approval by the owners of the Tilton Shopping Center, the landlord.

"We would like to start by the end of the month and be opened at the beginning of May," Reynolds said.

Frank Theatres, a division of Frank Entertainment, also owns the nearby Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township.

The company acquired the 47-year-old Northfield movie house from Milgram Theatres Inc. in January 2011.

Initial plans to renovate the Tilton 9 in spring of 2011 were delayed, due to several major company projects in other states as well as development of architectural plans for a large format screen, Reynolds said.

The screen would be similar in size to an IMAX.

Renovations will also replace film with digital projection, enhance digital sound, add stadium seating with oversized leather chairs and install three 3-D projectors, he said.

Reynolds did not disclose the costs but called them "substantial."

The changes are part of the long-range plan developed when Frank Theaters took over the Tilton 9.

"The picture will go from the 35-millimeter film to digital projection so it'll be more clear, more crisp color," Reynolds said. "The seating will certainly be a lot more comfortable. It's a red-leather seat, designed that it rocks, has lower back support, a little bigger headrest. It fits the body better."

As Hollywood produces more 3-D movies, the entertainment company has been making that format more widely available. The 3-D movies also have a per-ticket surcharge.

"We've been trying to show both (2-D and 3-D) because people are price-conscious, and with some of the movies the 3D features are not that significant," Reynolds said. "So if we're showing it in 3-D, we try to show it in 2-D also so people have that option."

Frank Theatres expects renovations to take three months, although it unsure when work will begin.

"The easiest way to do it is to close for several months," Reynolds said. "We could do it in stages, but it would be quicker and easier over the winter."

Owning the Tilton 9 had multiple benefits for Frank Theatres for both of its Atlantic County locations.

Industry restrictions sometimes barred the theaters from showing the same movie at the same time. They are only a few miles apart.

With both theaters under the same ownership, those restrictions no longer apply, Reynolds said.

"It freed us up to have screens for additional products, or to hang onto something longer. It adds some flexibility we did not have," Reynolds said. "Some of the auditoriums will be used for more of the art film, specialty film, not the mainstream releases. The nice thing about having the Tilton so near the Towne is we don't have to have all the same product at both places. We can do some things differently and actually expand how much we can show in the area."

Frank Theatres owns 26 theaters and 229 screens in seven states, according to the company's website.

Locally, the company has theaters in Atlantic and Cape May counties, including the Rio 12 in Middle Township, the Harbor 5 in Stone Harbor, and the Moorlyn 4 and Strand 5, both in Ocean City.

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