LUVERNE — It may not look like spring with the snow that’s blanketing the landscape, but the calendar says so, and sooner or later the warmer — even hot — summer days will be here.
Now, imagine a trip to Luverne with a car full of kids and a late-night double feature at the Verne Drive-In. Watching movies under the stars, listening to the dialogue through the radio and slurping on a fountain drink between handfuls of buttery popcorn or nibbles on deep-fried chicken strips sounds like a perfect summer night.
It sounds like a perfect night to the drive-in’s new owner, too.
At just 21, Luverne native Doug Rozeboom has purchased the iconic business from Glen Burmeister, who owned it for the past two decades. Rozeboom has the financial backing of his dad, Kevin, the support of both of his siblings — 18-year-old Gracie and 11-year-old Jace — and anticipates hiring about 20 employees for the upcoming season.
Rozeboom is no stranger to the outdoor movie operation. He started working at the Verne Drive-In when he was 16, and before the end of the summer was promoted to manager.
“It wasn’t really anything too much,” he said of his superior status. “Watching over the workers, cleaning the place for the next day — it wasn’t like being a store manager. I was just making sure everything was getting done.”
As manager, Rozeboom spent most of his time in the concession stand, helping Burmeister with the “back line," or food preparation at the fryers, and making sure there was enough food ready for customers as they came in for snacks. In his new role as operations manager, Rozeboom will continue to be behind the scenes in the concession stand and overseeing everything else.
The 2017 Luverne High School graduate currently lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, having graduated in December from Southeast Tech with a degree in business administration.
Initially, he thought he’d stay in Sioux Falls, but with the drive-in still on the market after he graduated, he and his dad began to consider the idea of owning it.
“Being able to be around my family will help a lot,” Rozeboom said, adding that as far as the drive-in operation, he doesn’t plan to change anything at this time.
“The only thing that’s really going to change is the ownership,” he said. “It’s going to be the same drive-in people have grown up with and loved the past 20 years.”
Rozeboom will continue to work with Silk Film Buying to bring movies to the big screen on the south side of Luverne. Opening night is May 1 — a Friday — with Friday and Saturday night features continuing through Memorial Day. Then, the drive-in will be open nightly from Memorial Day until about Labor Day weekend. The September schedule will return to Friday and Saturday night showings.
He said moviegoers can anticipate a variety of kids movies once again, as they are highly popular. Anything new from Disney, Pixar and Marvel can be expected.
“Those kinds of movies bring in a lot of people,” Rozeboom said.
The first movie starts at sundown, followed by an intermission and the second movie. Because a high percentage of revenue from box office sales has to be paid to the film companies, Rozeboom said their bottom line depends on concessions.
“We’ve kept our concession prices very reasonable,” he said.
Among the top sellers are chicken strips, fries, cheese curds, onion rings and a brewhouse basket that features a variety of those deep-fried foods. Popcorn is another hot commodity, as are fountain drinks and Bug Juice for the kids.
Once the season opens, the public can get details on coming shows at http://vernedriveintheater.com or on the Verne Drive In Facebook page.