SKOWHEGAN — Donald C. Brown Jr. has good drive-in movie karma.

Forced to close a drive-in theater he operated for many years in Delaware when the lease ran out, Brown, the new owner of the Skowhegan Drive-In, said he donated his classic intermission reels — short, quirky commercials shown between movies — to Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport.

Then he bought the Skowhegan Drive-In the end of May.

As he was cleaning out an unused room under the big outdoor movie screen, one of Brown’s friends found six canisters of 35-mm intermission reels, untouched since the 1960s.

He did a good thing and good luck was sent right back to him.

“They look like they’re brand new — Intermission clocks, pre-show trailers with the dancing hot dogs — ‘let’s all go to the lobby’ — yeah, those things,” Brown said. “They are the original.”

Brown, 49, said there are as much as 60 minutes of movie time in the reels and, with intermissions lasting only about 10 minutes, there will be plenty to show between movies all summer long.

The animated commercials invite patrons to visit the snack bar during intermission for soda and hot coffee, for popcorn, candy and pizza, all with the animated on-screen clock showing the number of minutes left until showtime.

“They were sitting on a shelf; it must have been just the right conditions,” he said. “They must have been protected from humidity. They must have remained at fairly consistent temperatures throughout the winter and then again during the summer, because they were extremely well preserved.”

The trailers will make their comeback when Brown re-opens the drive-in about July 20.

In the meantime, the Cape Cod, Mass., native said, he is working on the snack bar — repairing a wall, painting the woodwork and replacing the wooden counters. He also is installing a grill and fryer for traditional drive-in hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries.

Brown said his success running the Diamond State Drive-in Theater in Felton, Del., for 14 makes him believe he’ll have equal success in Skowhegan.

“It exceeded all of our expectations,” he said. “We had people who would come from southeastern New Jersey, southern Pennsylvania. They would come north from Virginia on the Delmarva peninsula and from nearby Maryland.”

The theater will continue to show family films and first-run movies, he said.

Brown said he had been aware of the Skowhegan Drive-In since connecting with owner and operator Doug Corson in 2010. Corson had been involved with the drive-in since graduating from Skowhegan High School in 1956.

He said he bought the business from Corson, but neither he nor Corson would reveal details of the transaction. Brown said Corson’s price took into consideration the value of the drive-in to the community and the upgrades that were necessary, including the upcoming digital conversion.

The property is valued at $119,500, with another $19,400 in personal property, according to town records. Real estate transfer documents had not yet been filed as of Friday.

Corson on Friday said he subdivided 15 acres on U.S. Route 201, with 10 acres going to Brown and the drive-in and the remaining 5 acres staying as a wooded parcel owned by Corson.

Corson said at age 74 he is ready to retire but will stick around for a while to help Brown adjust to Skowhegan.

“Age has something to do with it,” he said. “I’m semi-retired and nature has a way of encouraging one to retire.”

Brown hopes that his customers will be pleased with the work he is doing.

“I hope that they see it as a reflection of the tradition that was maintained here for so many years,” he said.

So what is the value to the community of a 350-car drive-in with a 50-by-80-foot movie screen that looks pretty much as it did when it opened in 1954?

“I think in many cases, it’s invaluable,” he said. “The old community movie theater, translated to the drive-in, was such an important focus of the cultural life in many communities. When the drive-in was closing in Delaware, the outpouring of community support trying to keep it open was beyond our expectations.”

The Skowhegan Drive-In was built by Lockwood & Gordon Co. of Boston, who also built the original Strand Theater in downtown Skowhegan.

Tickets for the drive-in will be $6 for adults and $3 for children, with no package deals for carloads of people, Brown said. Audio for the movies will be on FM stereo radio.

“We’ll finish mowing, we’ll get things spruced up,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll have a nice starry night with no rain on the 20th.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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