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Cozy Theatre named top in state: Downtown landmark garnered most votes in online poll

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Wadena loves its Cozy Theatre. The community demonstrated that affection last week, helping select the downtown landmark as the top movie theater in the state.

WCCO-TV viewers nominated 12 theaters via Facebook, Twitter and email, then held an online poll. Earning more than 1,000 votes, “The Cozy Theatre ran away with the competition, thanks to former and current Wadena residents who used social media to garner votes,” said WCCO reporter Matt Brickman, who visited town Wednesday to interview Cozy owner Dave Quincer for a story that aired on Thanksgiving.

Quincer said he’s humbled by the honor and he’s glad to do his part to put Wadena on the map.

“I love what I do,” he said. “The satisfaction of my job comes from the people who come through the door every night. I know that the community and surrounding areas appreciate the theater and we appreciate them just as much. We just couldn’t do what we do without their support.”

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, one of the most lucrative nights in the movie industry, the line stretched down Colfax Avenue.

For MacKenzie Holst, a senior at Staples-Motley, the Cozy is well worth a 20-minute drive. “They have good quality here.”

Pat Drobny of Buffalo, Minn., was in Wadena for the holiday and brought his family to see a flick.

“We didn’t think a small town theater would get it,” he said. “We figured a figured fancy theater in the cities or Duluth would get it.”

Wadena resident Autumn Heppner said she’s glad her hometown theater is getting statewide recognition.

“We agree 100 percent,” said Heppner, who brought her kids to see Disney’s “Frozen” on the main screen. “It feels down home.”

Her husband, Jake Heppner, said the Cozy’s a great value.

“We love the price of the treats,” said Jake Heppner, who added he knows a family from Brainerd that drives all the way to Wadena to save about $60 for a movie night out.

At $7 a ticket for adults ($6 for seniors and $5 for kids) the Cozy is a steal of a deal, especially compared to first-run movie theaters in the Twin Cities, which range from $9 to $11.

Quincer said he’s made a conscious effort to keep prices reasonable. “It’s an economically challenged area so we try to keep our prices as low as possible. We don’t want to price ourselves out of the market.”

The Cozy opened its doors in 1914, at the dawn of the motion picture industry. It’s been a Quincer family operation since 1923, when Dave’s great-grandfather John bought the Art Deco venue and operated it with his son Clarence until 1953. After John and Clarence died that year, Dave Quincer’s grandmother Della ran the theater with her sons Don and Rich. Rich, Dave’s father, bought out his brother in 1992, but was struck with a terminal illness, so Dave took over.

To keep up with the times, Dave Quincer has overseen major renovations, acquiring the adjacent building and adding a second screen in 1996. In 2007, a third screen opened. The theater made the digital conversation and added 3D on the main screen in 2010.

Operating a movie theater can be tough sometimes, Quincer said, requiring long hours including on nights, weekends and holidays.

“It’s a business you really have to love. Fortunately, my wife is tolerant and I’ve managed to stay married,” he said with a smile.

Like his father before him, Quincer met his wife working at the theater. As his son worked the concession stand nearby, Quincer joked he has to be careful in hiring decisions: “I might be picking out my future daughter-in-law.”

Dave’s son, WDC junior Matthew Quincer, already knows the movie business well. “I knew how to thread projectors by the time I was 8,” he said. Matthew Quincer said he plans to take over the theater after graduating from college in about six years.

Will he, too, find love at the Cozy?

‘We’ll see,” he said.

To watch the WCCO story, check out

Wadena Pioneer Journal’s Heather Bullock contributed to this report.