Small Town Charm Makes The Cosmo Theatre Shine

Big changes in Hollywood are changing the movie going experience, making it harder for small family owned theatres to survive. But given the right director, any movie theatre can be a blockbuster.

Dennis Lerch and his wife Margie have owned The Cosmo Theatre in downtown Merrill for nearly 15 years. For them, the theatre business is retirement.

"They we're going to close the building and they looked at it and saw that, with the rental units, they would be able to make it without the theatre if something happened and they'd just try the theatre business," Cosmo manager and the Lerch's son-in-law, Trevor Dzwonkowski, told NewsChannel 7.

Dzwonkowski and his wife, the Lerch's daughter, Shelby both help at the theatre with their kids.

The Lerch's venture was eventually successful, but like anything, it took time.

"There was never any money stuck into this theatre. So when they took it over, everything needed to be updated. You name it, it had to be done here. So a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of love went into the theatre," Dzwonkowski explained.

Their patrons certainly seem to have noticed their efforts.

"We love the changes, especially the captains chairs. I mean they're awesome," longtime Cosmo patron Robin Locke said. She's been coming to the Cosmo for over 30 years.

The captains chairs aren't the only improvements the Lerch's made. Besides adding an additional theatre, they recently upgraded the projectors, switching to digital after years of using film. It was an upgrade that cost about $200,000, but Dzwonkowski says his patrons make it possible.

"We've grown every year and we'd like to keep on doing that," Dzwonkowski said.

And they haven't done it by jacking up prices, like some theatres.

"It's hard for a family of four or five to come to a movie. You can spend $75. Where here, you can spend half that," Dzwonkowski told NewsChannel 7.

So how can the Cosmo compete? It all comes down to their charm.

"It's got that hometown feel you don't get anywhere else," Locke explained.

It's that hometown feel that keeps people coming back.

"Just come to the Cosmo and you'll figure it out for yourself. It's a good place to come," Locke explained.

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