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Valley Brook Drive-In returns despite looming financial challenge


LYONS FALLS — Valley Brook Drive-In lives to see another season.

The circa 1952 drive-in movie theater on Burdicks Crossing Road was facing extinction last year as changes in the movie industry indicated theaters would have to convert to a new digital projection system by this September. Many theaters did, in anticipation of 35mm film being discontinued this fall. However, that timeline has been pushed back, Valley Brook Drive-In owner Michael Dekin said.

“It was the first week in March when I was talking to my movie booker and some other people,” Mr. Dekin said, which included a carrier of digital projection equipment. “I was told I’d be able to show movies through the whole summer.”

Then, in mid-April, Mr. Dekin said, he learned he’d be able to show 35mm movies through the rest of the year.

“That’s the thing; you never know with these wonderful people,” Mr. Dekin said, referring to the movie industry.

The premise behind the digital switch, Mr. Dekin said, is for studios to save money on shipping of heavy movie reels. Instead, computer hard drives, which weigh far less in comparison, are sent to theaters, he said.

“It saves them something like $10 million a year,” he said. “It saves them money and you get a better picture.”

The news of the delay, however, was music to his ears, Mr. Dekin said. Initially, he was planning to move the heavy 35mm projector to make room for the new digital projection system.

“It’d be a two-man job,” he said. “I’m glad we didn’t. This way we were still ready to go.”

When the day of the digital conversion does come, it won’t take long to be ready.

“The whole conversion could be done in one day,” Mr. Dekin said.

The only hang-up is the same as last year — the price tag. Only this time, the sticker shock isn’t as bad.

“It would’ve cost over $100,000,” Mr. Dekin said of the upgrade expense last year. “The cost has come down quite a bit, actually.”

Now, that amount is estimated from $51,000 to $64,000.

“I’ve got a small business loan application, which I could get up to $21,000 with, but then I’d still have to cough up $30,000,” Mr. Dekin said. “That’s still a lot for a computer. That’s more than I’ve ever paid for a car.”

However, it’s his hope the movie industry will continue to hold off on forcing theaters like his to upgrade. “I figure at this rate, if they stretch it two or three more years, it’ll end up costing something more like what it’s worth, like around $20,000,” Mr. Dekin said.

Valley Brook Drive-In will open for the season at sundown tonight with a double feature of “Star Trek Into Darkness” and “Pain and Gain.” Ticket prices are $5 per adult and $1 for children 7 to 11. Children younger than 7 are admitted free. The drive-in can be reached at 348-6315.

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