BY AARON GILLESPIE

Times Bulletin Staff

Ron Dunn has been an employee for Jim and Joyce Boyd for the past 18 years, the past two as the all-inclusive employee with the title of Boyd Operations Manager. The Boyds are the owners of three theaters including the Van Wert Cinemas and the Van-Del Drive-In, as well as a theater in Bryan, Ohio. Dunn is hands on with all of them, specifically the ones in the area, and spends his days handling a slew of tasks.

Dunn is the right-hand man for the owners and has a daily routine that fluctuates frequently, often times differing depending upon the day of the week.

While much of his day-to-day routine is dependent on current projects and other areas that need attention, one constant, day in and day out, is a board meeting. According to Dunn, rarely, if ever, is one of these meetings missed. Usually taking place over lunch or breakfast, the meetings are a time for the Boyds and Dunn to discuss employee issues, upcoming movies, construction projects and various other aspects.

Dunn noted that outside of the daily board meetings, his Monday and Tuesdays were probably the only days that feature any semblance of a routine during the week due to scheduling, ordering supplies, and other administrative tasks.

"My Monday routine starts when Jim negotiates deals with movie companies for what movies we're going to get and then I come in and make up the movie schedules and the times for the theaters of when they're going to play. I also make sure the answering machines are done, and e-mail our website person as soon as we can so she can update all the websites," said Dunn.

Wednesday's and Thursday's are usually days where construction and maintenence projects are taking place at the theater and the drive-in. While the Boyds employ a full-time maintenence employee, Dunn also lends a hand in helping out with these projects. These projects range from painting the screen at the Van-Del to continued tornado clean up outside of the Van Wert Cinemas. The projects are generally handled by Dunn and his employees but on occassion Dunn will contact local contractors if the job warrants it.

"We pulled a tree out of the creek today and that tree was there from the tornado and never got cleaned out so we pulled it out so it would quit washing brush up into the parking lot," said Dunn.

With 11 acres of land to maintain at the Van Wert Cinemas location and an additional 10 and a half acres at the Van-Del, there is plenty of maintence work that is taking place, especially in the summer months, keeping Dunn and the maintenance personnel busy.

"During the summer, it is a very hectic schedule because you have painting and landscaping that gets done every year and we just coordinate that. There's a lot of ground to take care of," he said.

Dunn has been the manager at the Van-Del for roughly 10-15 years and still handles those duties as a part of his job as the Boyd Operations Manager. On the nights when the drive-in is open, Dunn gets there at around 6 p.m. and can sometimes be there until 3 or 4 a.m. The reason behind those long hours at the Van-Del results from some of the public's favorite aspects of a night at the drive-in.

"We serve regular food out there, sandwiches and pizza and stuff like that. We have a kitchen manager that gets the kitchen ready and we have two projection booths that have to be gotten ready and there is a lot of prep work before we can open the gates to the Van-Del every day," he said.

The second, smaller screen, is an addition to the drive-in this year and is one that has offered a great deal of benefits in multiple areas.

Every movie that comes to any of the Boyd theaters involves brokering deal with the movie companies. This process is one that has been made easier for the Van-Del drive-in because of the addition of a second screen.

"All their theaters are separate theaters within the company, it's an incorporated deal. But the drive-in, now that it has two screens, Jim can broker a better deal on movies because we can play four movies at a time. It used to be if he would broker a deal with Disney we would have to play two disney features," said Dunn.

Despite the fact that movie theater attendence in general has dropped across the country due to the economy, Dunn noted that the Van-Del has always and is currently doing very well in part because it is a regional drive-in and is one of less than 500 left throughout the country.

"It draws a lot from the Lima area, Putnam County, Van Wert County, and Decatur and New Haven in Indiana. We play top-rung movies out there and the attendance is good, but it is a little soft becuase of the economy," said Dunn.

Deciding on which movies will play on which screen at what time is a process that Dunn handles with some assistence from a pre-screening process. The process takes place with other movie theater owners and helps Dunn to decide on which movies will show in the bigger theaters and which can be placed in the smaller ones.

"Most movies are pre-screened by movie theater owners and they go through and kind of rate the movies and if they think it's going to be a big, huge release and everyone is going to want to see the movie, then I'll put it in a larger theater," stated Dunn. "If it's a movie that is say, 2 weeks old then we will put it in a smaller theater. We reserve Cinemas 1 and 2 for new releases normally but once in a while if there is a light release on a new movie, then we would put that in Cinema 4 or 5."

There is one part of the job that is the most enjoyable and rewarding for Dunn, and it deals with the people that he interacts with on a daily basis.

"My favorite part of this job is the people and the kids," he said. "We play a lot of games at the drive-in with the kids, like Simon Says. We do promotions and give away cotton candy with the kids and stuff like that and the interaction with the kids - I've played Simon Says out there so much that the kids think my name is Simon Van-Del," said Dunn with a chuckle.

In his 18 years with Boyd Theaters, Dunn has worked from the ground up, literally. Being hired initially in an entry-level position as the projectionist at the Van-Del and then becoming the manager at Van-Del before eventually working his way up to his current position as the operations manager has been an enjoyable process for Dunn. However, there was some initial apprehension in regards to the promotion and the increased responsibilities.

"An opportunity came up about two years ago and we negotiated it and I accepted. We've accomplished quite a bit in two years. We've got all new websites and we've had a turnover in employees but we have some very quality employees. We have kids from every school district that work for us," he said. "I enjoy doing what I do. If I didn't enjoy this I wouldn't be here. At first I thought this was going to be a huge challenge but it really hasn't been that much. We just had to do some reorganizing and stuff."

A recurring theme that Dunn mentioned often was the fact that the Boyd Theaters is a very family-oriented business that takes care of it's employees. It is evident through the hardships endured with the losses at the hands of the tornado and the way they have recovered that they are committed to their employees and the area.

"The tornado has obviously taken out the Ridgeway Drive-In and I think it's going to be a long time before Boyd theaters is fully recovered from that loss. There are still repercussions from that tornado," he said. "But they are a very close knit family-owned business and they take care of their own. They're good people to work for," said Dunn.