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Valley Brook Drive-In to open for season in May, go digital in June

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BRANTINGHAM — When the drive-in season closed last August, Michael D. Dekin speculated it would be end credits for the 61-year-old Valley Brook Drive-In.

But the 49-year-old owner now says the theater will open in May and the switch from 35-millimeter film to digital could come as soon as the end of June.

“It’s going to happen soon,” Mr. Dekin said. “We’ll open with 35 millimeter and then switch over. We’re finalizing everything now.”

In the past few years, the push for movie theaters and drive-ins to go digital has put a financial burden on many theater operations. Owners struggle with breaking the bank to fund the new technology or closing down. Last summer, Mr. Dekin was certain he would not be able to produce the funds — initially set at about $60,000 but recently dropped to $55,000. Ultimately, it will take most of his retirement fund and a partial revolving loan through Snow Belt Housing Co. Inc. to see the process to completion.

“Through Snow Belt Housing, it looks like we’re definitely going digital around the beginning of July, end June,” Mr. Dekin said. Ultimately he expects to pay $42,000 out of his own pocket. But it is something he’s more than willing to do.

“My grandparents opened the drive-in Memorial weekend 1952,” said Mr. Dekin, who took over operation of the drive-in with his mother and sister in 1991. He now is its sole owner.

That first night, “Here Comes the Groom” and “Gene Autry and the Mountaineers” played for a 60-cent admission. The price has gone up since then, but not by much. From $5 per adult, spectators can anticipate a $1 price hike when the drive-in opens either Friday, May 16, or Memorial Day weekend. It will be the first time the price has changed in 12 years. Admission will cost $6 for adults, $2 for children 7 to 11 and free for children 6 and younger.

Despite the expense, Mr. Dekin said, there are many benefits to going digital. The average movie consists of five to eight reels shipped for $80 to $100 in two boxes. Each box weighs about 65 pounds. Now he will simply receive a digital version that can be downloaded into the computer.

Mr. Dekin said he has an idea of which films will play opening night, but he cannot confirm until everything is finalized.

“I might not get all the movies I want, but it will be enough to survive the summer,” he said.

Additional details, as they become available, will be made on the drive-in’s Facebook page under Valley Brook Drive-In. The theater is at Burdick’s Crossing Road and Route 12. The theater has one screen and can accommodate 400 cars.

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