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Four generations of theater owners bring the movies to Wadena

Owner of the Cozy Theater, Dave Qunicer and his son, Matt, outside the Cozy Theater on Jefferson Street in Wadena. Paula Quam / Forum News Service1 / 6
Dave and his father, Rich, in the projection room at the Cozy Theater. Submitted photo.2 / 6
Times have changed. The container on the far left is an entire twohour movie, plus extra features in a digital format. The large reel can hold up to 20 minutes of film. Each movie required approximately six reels. Kim Brasel / Forum News Service3 / 6
The Cozy Theater circa 1924. Submitted photo.4 / 6
Owner of the Cozy Theater, Dave Qunicer and his son, Matt, in the projection room of the theater. Paula Quam / Forum News Service5 / 6
Dave Quincer, owner of the Cozy Theater, and his son, Matt, in front of the theater. Paula Quam / Forum News Service6 / 6

WADENA, Minn. — The Cozy Theater has seen its share of changes since opening in its current location in 1914. Movies are no longer silent, every sound is amplified by high-tech equipment. Projection rooms are no longer filled with oversized movie reels run by a person. Instead, it's all computerized. The one constant has been the Quincer family for four generations, and owner Dave Quincer would like to pass it on to a fifth.

Rising costs are making the theater business tough, but he hopes it will be around to pass down to his son who is interested in keeping it in the family. While there have been times he has seen the media and even the studios sound the death knoll for theaters, Quincer thinks people won't give up the social aspect of going to the movies.

"It seems to be a fairly resilient business; it's kind of like having a kitchen. Everyone has a kitchen in their house, but you still go out and eat. It's the same thing with going out to the movies."

The Quincer family has owned the theater since 1923, when John C. Quincer, Dave's great-grandfather, bought it. He had owned a theater in Oakes, North Dakota, before moving to Wadena.

Part of the reason the theater has stayed in the family for so many generations has to do with how life has played out. Quincer's grandfather and great-grandfather died in 1954, and because neither had a will, his father and uncle took over the theater.

"All the cousins and my siblings worked in the theater at some point, and we all had the option to get into the business; I was the only who wanted to make a career out of it," Quincer said.

He wanted to be at the theater as much as possible because that's where his dad was. If he wanted to be around his dad, that's where he needed to be. The theater business demands that of its owners: You're open when the public has its free time, making family vacations a rarity. Everything you do works around the schedule of the theater. He remembers the drive-in as being the most fun.

"When I was about 7, those were the first real memories I have of it, and I think it's because of the atmosphere, being outside, it was busy, busier than the theater," he recalls. "The theater was slow and studios put together double feature packages for the drive-in like Butch Cassidy and MASH."

Before the days of VHS, studios would re-release movies to the drive-ins for a second run.

Quincer bought a drive-in two years ago in Litchfield. He estimates at one time there were 80 to 90 in Minnesota. "After 27 years, it's fun to be back in the drive-in business," he said. "Of course, it's completely dependent on the weather."

While things have changed, and he admits it can be a tough business that doesn't allow for a lot of free time, Quincer has a love for the business. It's in his blood.

"Certain movies I enjoy seeing people laugh or be startled, and I enjoy knowing that I am indirectly a part of providing that experience for them."

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