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Reeling in change at Wadena's Cozy Theatre

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Dave Quincer shows the Cozy's remaining traditional film projector, a machine with some parts dated back to the 1940s and early 1950s. Quincer said the old film equipment works just fine, but is outdated as movie studios are phasing out film in favor of digital files.1 / 3
Photo by Rachelle Klemme Dave Quincer shows a 50-pound box of six film reels together containing "The Odd Life of Timothy Green", the last movie to be screened in that format. A box with the digital hard drive, however, is only a few pounds and can be picked up with one hand.2 / 3
Jeremy Hinman of Larry's Electric works on wiring to set up the new digital projector for Screen 2 in Wadena's Cozy Theatre. The Cozy has gone completely digital, with Screens 2 and 3 transitioning from traditional film to digital. Screen 1 has used digital film since 20103 / 3

The iconic film reels associated with a night at the movies are becoming a thing of the past, and Wadena's Cozy Theatre has completed its transition to digital projection to keep up with the times.

The second and third screens of the Cozy have had their traditional film projectors replaced with digital projectors.

The theater's main screen has been digital since May 2010, although an old film projector remains standing next to the newer machine. With its oldest parts dating back to the 1940s and early 1950s, the old film projector is now the only one left in the triplex, and Cozy Theatre owner Dave Quincer said it may not be there much longer.

"Hollywood's going to quit making film," Quincer said.

With major studios phasing out traditional reel film in favor of digital movie files, Quincer said, small theatres that can't afford to make the transition are being forced to close. Twentieth Century Fox, for example, has announced it will stop traditional film reels by the end of the year. Theaters not yet equipped for digital technology will not be able to show movies at all.

Quincer said he is thankful for the support from the community, and the Cozy is now showing digitally projected movies on the newer two screens.

The last Cozy movie screened in film was "The Odd Life of Timothy Green".

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" is being held over this week, but is now showing digitally. Quincer said many people might not notice a difference in quality, but digital projection has a sharper, brighter image and better sound than traditional film projection.

Traditional film was a lot of heavy lifting. Quincer said a box of five reels is about 50 pounds, and he would splice them together into one large reel. Setting up a show took two hours. However, one of the new hard drives being used to contain movie files can weigh a few pounds and is less time-consuming to set up.

At the end of a show, the film reel would have to be disassembled manually, Quincer said. With digital projection, all he has to do is press the delete button.

Jeremy Hinman of Larry's Electric is working on wiring the new digital projectors, and said the business also did work in 2010 on Screen 1's digital system.

"Dave keeps us busy here," Hinman said.

The Cozy Theatre, first started in 1914 and having its major art deco remodel in 1938, had only one screen for decades.

When the Cozy's second screen, now known as Screen 3, was added in 1996, digital movie technology was not yet on the horizon, Quincer said.

However, by the addition of a third screen - now known as Screen 2 - in 2007, he knew it was a matter of a few years before digital would take over.

T.J. Hopland of Bright Star Systems, a movie theater equipment distributor in Minneapolis, said he installed the Screen 2 and 3 original film projectors and recently assisted with taking them out.

"We're just changing with the industry," Hopland said.