Cozy up for your favorite classic Christmas movies

Take the kids to see "The Polar Express" on Dec. 11 and "The Grinch" on Dec. 18 at the Cozy and Comet movie theatres. The free matinees start at noon and 2 p.m. at the Cozy and at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Comet.

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Santa Claus and his horse-drawn sleigh visited the Cozy Theatre for Christmas in 1954. The Cozy has been hosting Christmas matinees since the 1930s or 40s. Contributed / Cozy Theatre / Ed Tapley

It’s time for the most beloved tradition of the year: enjoying a Christmas movie classic for free at the Cozy Theatre.

You can join the tradition with your kids, or drop them off to do some shopping downtown, on the Saturdays leading up to Christmas. The movie presents are a thank you to the community and a way of giving back, as owner Dave Quincer said. The 2021 line-up includes a set of classic Christmas movies, including “Elf,” “The Polar Express” and “The Grinch.”

“It was to help the whole community and to provide a nice perk for the holiday season,” Quincer said. “It’s just been a fun tradition and a way to give back to the community and to hopefully help support the downtown business community too.”

The biggest task on their Christmas matinee list: garnering business sponsorships for the movie costs and advertising. With a big thank you to previous participating businesses and the community, the Quincers decided it would be easiest to host the matinees on their own this year. The list of sponsoring businesses has dwindled over the years as businesses have closed, but the support remains strong from current businesses and community, as Quincer said.


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Dave Quincer started running the Cozy Theatre in 1992 following a long history of Quincer ownership. The Christmas matinees for the year were "FernGully: The Last Rainforest," "An American Tail: Fievel Goes West," "Beethoven" and "All I Want for Christmas." Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

He remembers downtown lit up with businesses open late on Fridays and holiday lights strung across Jefferson Street with even more festivity than today’s decked lampposts and glowing Burlington Northern Park. Inside the theater, the Christmas matinees were featured twice on Saturdays, and Quincer made sure to get himself a front row seat. He’d settle in for some of his favorites over the years, including “The Ghost of Mr. Chicken,” “Island of Blue Dolphins” and “The Little Ark.”

“Sometimes I’d sit down in the front row of the theater and watch them both times, or lay down on the seats if I could. I remember doing that, putting all the seats down and then laying across the edge of them,” Quincer said.

While Quincer isn’t sure exactly when the Christmas matinees began, it could be as early as the 1930-40s. Many small town theaters share the holiday spirit of giving after a theater in South Dakota started the matinee and shop tradition.

The Cozy first opened at their current location in 1914, and John C. Quincer purchased the theater in 1923. The Quincers also own the Comet Theater in Perham, which opened in 1938 and was owned by the Joe Wasche Sr. and Delores Wasche family since 1971. The Quincers purchased the theater in 2019 .

Both theaters had about 70 people each for their first Christmas matinee show on Dec. 4.

“It’s something that people have come to expect, something a lot of people have fond memories of,” Quincer said.


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While going to see "Elf" along with his family, Tyson Roush, back, and his friend Mason Matis, front, select their candy at the Cozy Theatre on Dec. 4, 2021. Rebecca Mitchell / Pioneer Journal

One of the surprise moments over the years included a visit from Santa Claus himself with a horse-drawn sleigh and treats.

“Santa would make an appearance once and awhile and hand out peanuts and ribbon candy … at the end of the show as people left,” Quincer said. “I remember him standing down at the stage door as people exited the theater.”

His childhood Saturday afternoons at the movies had plenty of cleaning, too. While staying after to help clean, Quincer now reminds patrons to throw away their trash following the movie. The cleaning challenge is only having about 15 minutes before the next matinee begins, and there’s always evidence of a popping good time.

“I always tell people if there’s not popcorn on the floor that’s a bad thing because that means nobody bought any popcorn,” Quincer said with a laugh.

The movies themselves bring out the crowds, based on popularity or movies not being available on DVD, though streaming services have changed the game. He enjoys welcoming people to the theater, and understands that people might not be ready for crowds during the pandemic.

“We’ve had times when the theater’s been nearly full. And then other times when we’re not quite as busy but it would depend on the movie and the weather and what else was going on,” Quincer said. “We’re always competing with something else.”


Dave Quincer
Dave Quincer has owned the Cozy Theatre for 25 years, and his family has owned it for 96 years. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

Besides “Elf” that was shown on Dec. 4—which Quincer says is his favorite Will Farrell movie—he is looking forward to “The Grinch” just like he did as a kid when the television special aired at Christmas time.

While the Quincer’s family traditions are centered around the theater schedule, Dave enjoys connecting with people who grew up in Wadena as one of his holiday traditions. The theater is typically closed on Christmas Eve and open on Christmas Day. The Christmas Day showings will start at 3 p.m. You can check the Pioneer Journal and the Cozy Theatre Facebook page for the full schedule.

The Christmas matinees and going to the movies on Christmas Day are traditions that are here to stay.

“It’s a fun time of the year. The nicest thing on Christmas Day, or really through the holiday, is getting to see some people that are back in town visiting relatives that I grew up with or from my era or people that have moved away and are back for whatever reason,” Quincer said. “That’s always been a nice perk of working on Christmas Day. I always tell the kids you’re going to run into people that you might not have seen for awhile.”

You can take the kids to see “The Polar Express” on Dec. 11 and “The Grinch” on Dec. 18 at the Cozy and Comet movie theaters. The free matinees start at noon and 2 p.m. at the Cozy and at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Comet.

Rebecca Mitchell started as a Digital Content Producer for the Post Bulletin in August 2022. She specializes in feature reporting as well as enhancing online articles. Readers can reach Rebecca at 507-285-7681 or
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