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Valley Brook Drive-In to open this weekend

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LYONS FALLS — With chilly temperatures still lingering, it may be hard to believe it’s time for drive-in movie theaters to reopen, but Valley Brook Drive-In did just that this weekend.

“We have to choose a date to open months in advance,” explained owner Michael Dekin. He said health code regulations require he sets an opening date long before he knows what the weather will be like.

“It’s usually warmer when we open, but it would be worse if we got warm weather early and we were still closed for the season,” he said.

Mr. Dekin opened Friday as an anticipated summer blockbuster made its debut nationally. “The Avengers” is expected to dominate screens throughout the country, and Mr. Dekin was hoping it would be a big draw for his theater’s opening weekend.

This was the 50th opening weekend for the drive-in, which opened for business in 1962 under the ownership of Mr. Dekin’s grandparents, Mike and Bessie Matuszczak.

Mr. Dekin said he came to run the family business after his graduation from Carthage High School in 1983. He was at a friend’s house when he received a call from his grandparents.

“They gave me a proposition,” he recalled.

Though it was late June, the drive-in still had not opened. His grandparents asked if he would consider learning how to run the cameras and open for the season.

“I often wonder what would have happened if I said no,” he said.

Mr. Dekin didn’t say “no.” Instead, he took a crash course in operating the equipment from Don Mulligan of Marcy Drive-in, at the time. Valley Brook opened in mid-July that year.

He’s been running the family business ever since.

However, what may make this the final season for Valley Brook is something out of his control.

Changes in Hollywood films may make Mr. Dekin’s equipment obsolete. Switching to a new digital system to accommodate the movies isn’t a simple upgrade.

It carries a price tag between $60,000 and $80,000.

That’s a big investment for a business that only retains $1.75 from each ticket sale.

“The studio automatically gets 65 percent,” explained Mr. Dekin of his $5 admission charge. The studio also requires him to call in his numbers after each showing. He said he drives home and does his books each night, calls his sales into Hollywood, then hits the hay as the birds are chirping.

“This is a business owner’s best friend, “ he said, waving a bottle of aspirin.

He shrugged off the stresses and complications of the nature of his business, “I wouldn’t be in this if I didn’t love it, love movies.”

Whether or not the theater will reopen next year is still up in the air.

“I’m just looking to get through this year, right now,” he said.

Valley Brook Drive-In is located on Burdicks Crossing Road and is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, with movies starting at sundown.

Ticket prices are $5 per adult and $1 for children ages 7 to 11. Children younger than 7 are admitted free. The drive-in may be reached at 348-6315.

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