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Cozy turns 100

The Cozy Theatre in downtown Wadena has been around for nearly as long as movies themselves.

When the local landmark opened its doors on Tuesday, March 10, 1914, the silent, black-and-white feature "Last Days of Pompeii" played on the single screen.

Exactly a century later, moviegoers sat in much more comfortable seats and chose from three full color options with surround sound, including "300: Rise of an Empire" in digital 3D.

The Cozy of 2014 is much different than the cinema John Quincer bought in 1923, when it couldn't be open on Sundays and didn't sell concessions. Many of the upgrades have been made in the two decades since Dave Quincer took over the theater from his ailing father, Rich. In this business, the only way to survive is to constantly adapt.

"I think (my great-grandfather, grandfather and father) would be amazed at how far things have progressed," said Dave Quincer, the fourth generation of his family to run The Cozy.

Despite competition from television, DVDs and Netflix, one thing hasn't changed.

"Our goal is to continue to try to make the experience something you can't get at home," Quincer said. "It's just the social aspect of it. That's what keeps it going ... You can't duplicate that at home. It's just a different feeling."

With free concessions and behind-the-scenes tours, the public joined the Quincer family to celebrate the theater's centennial on Saturday. In the lobby, there's a retrospective exhibit, curated by the Wadena County Historical Society, that will be on display throughout the spring. It features a timeline, photos and artifacts from the last century.

Last fall, WCCO viewers picked The Cozy as the top cinema in Minnesota. Quincer said he's not sure if that accolade attracted more customers, but business is good as the theater enters its second century.

His son, WDC junior Matthew Quincer, is poised to keep the theater in the family for a fifth generation after he graduates from college in about six years.

As he worked at the concession stand, Matthew said in a November interview he already knows the business pretty well. "I knew how to thread projectors by the time I was 8."

1914: The Cozy Theatre opened at 223 S. Jefferson St. on March 10.

A March 5 Pioneer Journal article called the cinema, built for $10,000 by Alfred Beaudreau and Ralph Calkins "one of the most modern and best little theaters in the northwest."

1923: On Feb. 1, ownership of The Cozy passed from from Pierce Getter, who had acquired it from the two original owners, to John Quincer of Groten, S.D.

Quincer had operated a cinema in Oakes, N.D. until returning to farming in 1921.

A Jan. 18 Pioneer Journal article said the Quincers "come to this city highly recommended and will be a welcome addition to social and business circles."

In the March city elections that same year, Wadena voters expressed their support for Sunday movies in a straw ballot. The measure attracted "more votes than were cast for any of the newly elected officials," winning 330 to 278, as reported in the March 15 issue of the Pioneer Journal.

1929: Shortly after revamping the air-cooling and ventilation system, John Quincer brought "talkie movies" to Wadena, installing an RCA photophone system. The first talking movie at The Cozy, "The Canary Murder Trial," debuted Aug. 15.

"Theatre goers of Wadena and this entire section of the state who have witnessed the new talking pictures at the Cozy theatre here, are emphatic in their praise ...," according to a Pioneer Journal article the following week, when the original version of "The Wolf of Wall Street" was set to play.

At the time, admission cost 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.

1938-39: In 1938, The Cozy closes for a $40,000 renovation and films temporarily moved to Memorial Auditorium. The project added the iconic Art Deco marquee, while modernizing and enlarging the venue.

"They basically redid the whole theater," Dave Quincer said.

The remodeled cinema reopens Aug. 24, 1938 with "Rich Man, Poor Girl."

"Theatre and construction men say the new Cozy will be one of the finest playhouses in north central Minnesota with sound equipment equal to any in metropolitan centers," an Aug. 18 Pioneer Journal article reported.

1949: Quincer added a Manley Popcorn Machine, tapping into a revenue source that has become crucial to the theater industry.

Dave Quincer retired the original machine in 2000 when parts become too difficult to procure.

1953: Both John Quincer and his son Clarence, who had helped manage The Cozy, died.

John's wife Della took over and began operating the theater with her sons Rich (Dave's father) and Don.

Late 1950s/early 1960s: Television took its toll on the movie industry during this period.

"There were some lean years," Dave Quincer said.

1972: The Cozy added a glass enclosed ticket booth, while the auditorium and outer lobby were renovated.

1986: The Quincers opened a video store in part of the lobby with 2,500 titles available to rent. The store, which closed in 1996, was an attempt to get a slice of the VHS market, which Dave Quincer said had led to some more "lean years."

1992: Rich Quincer bought his brother Don's stake in the theater, but is struck with a terminal illness, so Dave Quincer returned to Wadena to help his father manage operations.

1994: Dave Quincer officially took over ownership of The Cozy Jan. 1.

1996: On June 7, a second screen opened at the cinema. That night, moviegoers could choose between "Mission Impossible" and "Twister." An additional screen "made my booking options a lot easier," Quincer said.

2005: The Whiskey Creek Film Festival debuted in September.

The annual event features limited release movies people wouldn't be able to ordinarily see at a theater unless they traveled to big cities.

"The whole idea is to get people to understand there are really good films that are not marketed to the masses," Quincer said.

2007: The Cozy added a third screen after taking over the adjacent building.

2010: As the motion picture industry transitioned from away from film reels, The Cozy made the conversion to digital projectors - an expensive project. At the same time, the theater added 3D capability to the main screen.

2013: The Cozy topped a November poll of WCCO viewers as the finest movie theater in the state.