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Quincers purchasing Litchfield drive-in theater

The Starlite Drive-in has five screens west of Litchfield.1 / 2
The Starlite Drive-In is one of six outdoor theaters still open in Minnesota.2 / 2

The Quincer family is hoping to return to the outdoor theater business.

Dave Quincer, who operates Wadena's Cozy Theatre, has entered an agreement to buy Litchfield's Starlite Drive-In.

"It all happened really quickly," Quincer said of the purchase.

Starlite owner Tim Eiler wrote on Facebook Monday, Aug. 10: "It is with great sadness that I have to report that this will be the last year I am operating the Starlite Drive-In."

He said that due to a surgery this spring he is no longer physically or financially able to continue operating the Starlite. He listed the drive-in at the assessed value of the land at about $70,000 and including all the equipment to run it.

"I want to see it continue on for the next generation BUT if I don't get a buyer for it In the next few months I will have no choice to start the liquidation of the equipment and that most likely will be the end of the drive-in."

Quincer saw the post on Facebook and jokingly said to his family, "we should buy this."

They laughed a bit but then seriously started discussing the possibility of buying the theater.

"I could see that there was a great deal of interest by the Facebook posts," he said.

With only six drive-in theaters still open in Minnesota, Quincer didn't want to see one close.

His family once operated outdoor theaters in Wadena and Perham that closed in the 1980s. He spent a lot of time at the theaters and has a lot of experience.

Quincer's son, Matthew, is now in college and has expressed interest in returning to help run the Cozy and was interested in the drive-in as well.

"This isn't something I could have tackled on my own," Quincer said. "Without my family helping out I wouldn't have pursued it."

The Starlite has a staff of about 10 people and some of them have already contacted Quincer about returning to work next season.

It is a five-screen drive-in with two digital screens and still running film.

"We'll likely run the two digital screens and see from there," Quincer said.

Plans also include renovating the bathrooms and some other projects.

"We'll be busy," he said.

Quincer had thought about opening an outdoor theater in Wadena again but the cost was always too high because he would need to build a new screen, bathrooms, the works.

"I couldn't have built a new screen for the price Tim was selling the whole place," Quincer said.

He has visited the Starlite Drive-In and plans to be down there a few more times this season to see how everything works.

Quincer has been humbled by the outpouring of support from fans of the Cozy Theatre. A post announcing the purchase of the Starlite has nearly 1,500 likes and 150 comments with congratulations and well wishes.

"It's a nostalgic thing for so many people," Quincer said of drive-in theaters. "There's just something about it. I could never get it out of my system either."

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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