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Remodeled Cozy screen 3 has guests reclining in relaxation

Renovations bring updated amenities while holding onto the art deco charm of Wadena's theatre.

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The new reclining seats are ready and waiting in the Cozy Theater's screen 3 auditorium.
Contributed photo
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WADENA — Things just got a whole lot cozier at the Cozy Theatre.

Theater specialists from Bright Star Systems in Minneapolis were busy installing new reclining theater seats and wall coverings at the Cozy tin early November. It was part of a larger project to remodel screen 3. That project included removal of the floor coverings, seating, wall coverings, speakers, screen and lighting. Each is being replaced to bring a fresh update that aligns with the alive-and-kicking 100-plus year old theater in the heart of town.

Theater owner Dave Quincer said an investment like this is not taken lightly.

“To put this kind of investment in a business is a pretty big deal right now,” Quincer said. He addressed what he’s seen in small towns is that once a theater closes, it’s a real struggle to bring it back. The Quincer family plans to celebrate 100 years of owning the theater in March 2023 and have no plans of slowing down.

“We’ve been very fortunate over the years that Wadena and surrounding areas are very good about supporting us,” Quincer said.

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The switch to reclining seats lowers seating from 162 to 60 and each Irwin “zero gravity” seat comes at a cost of $550. These are considered some of the best in the business and made in the USA.

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Chairs in the screen 3 auditorium are placed on the floor and ready to be installed in early November 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Once workers arrived on scene, reconstruction began in earnest and finished just a few days later. Screen 3 opened for it's first showing of Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever on November 11.

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Staff with Bright Star Systems work to install new seating in the Cozy Theater in November 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

The decision to shrink capacity in the auditorium with these new, larger seats wouldn’t have been considered a few short years ago. Changing habits of the movie industry and desires of movie-goers, however, have the Quincer family investing in the theater to ensure people keep coming out to support it, even if it’s in lower numbers than it once was.

“There are times where we’re going to sell this theater out, a lot more than we used to,” Quincer said.

There are still eight seats in a little-used balcony area, plus added space for handicap accessibility and wheelchair seating with this remodel.

“This will now be our hold over theater, we’re not going to open the big blockbuster movie here,” Quincer said. They may open some movies there, but not a movie they expect a huge turnout for.

“We’re trying to enhance their experience,” Quincer said of the decision to bring this remodel forward. He knows that people still prefer the theater experience, but he also hears about those movies that are already streaming at home and in the theater at the same time. He feels they can at least offer the best experience they can with some of the best movies they can show – plus a heaping helping of some of the best popcorn around.

Leading up to and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Quincer has seen the film industry change their methods of delivery by making more films available through online streaming from the convenience of your home. That’s a hit to the theaters who depend on having rights to the first release in order to pull in crowds of people. Quincer said that companies like Sony Pictures and Warner Brothers have figured out that they need to continue to use theaters for the release of their films.

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Quincer has seen attendance slip but knows that others who have invested in the reclining theater seats have seen a boost in support. When given the choice, who wouldn’t want to feel like they’re watching a movie from the comfort of their Lazy Boy?

“My colleagues that have done this all seem to see an uptick in business and I’ve been told that if you do not have all your auditoriums with recliners that customers will go to the movie that’s in the recliner theater,” Quincer said. “Sometimes they just want to sit in a recliner.”

Despite changes in the way they must do business, Quincer said he takes solace in the fact that good films are still being made and worth paying to see.

“There’s still some good stuff coming,” Quincer said.

Based on the looks of these chairs, even if the film isn’t great, you might be able to get a great nap in.

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Matthew Quincer carries out cardboard from the Cozy Theater during a remodeling project in November 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

History of the theater

The final product will show off the original art deco of this historic building and embrace the comforts of today. Maintenance and updates never seem to cease on a century old building. Screen 3 was added in 1996. Screen 2 was remodeled in 2007. Following the update to screen 3, it’s likely that screen 1 will get the next refresh, which will likely include more reclining seats, Quincer said.

Bright Star Systems project manager Chris Fitschen said the business works in cinemas all over the state to provide support to large cinemas or smaller home theaters. Their goal, like Quincer's, is to provide the highest quality movie going experience.

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The Cozy Theater pulls in movie goers with its neon marquee in November 2022.
Contributed photo

Related Topics: MOVIESWADENASMALL BUSINESS
Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at mjohnson@agweek.com or 218-640-2312.
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