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Couple decides to close Cass Lake movie theater

Pattie Reiplinger spent the whole day on Dec. 30 in Bemidji, shopping, having lunch and not returning to her Cass Lake home until after dark.

"Whatever I wanted to do," she said. "I didn't even look at the clock," she said. "I didn't have to worry about being back by 6 o'clock for the theater."

After 12 years of operating the Cass Lake Movie Theater, Pattie Reiplinger, along with her husband, Tim, closed it Dec. 29, following the last showing of "Arthur Christmas."

"I was sad. I had a lot of mixed feelings," Pattie said.

Pattie works as the food service director for the Cass Lake-Bena School District, and together she and Tim run the Highland Inn Seasonal Park.

Meanwhile, Tim, who has served as the fire chief of the Cass Lake Fire Department, began planning to retire. His last day is Sunday.

When the theater was open, Pattie said, she was there every night to get things started and always on-call at home in case there was a problem.

"I started thinking if I could afford it, I would just close down," she said. "I work at school all day, every day. We have the resort and I've been at the theater every night and weekend for 12 years."

Pattie said there are two parties potentially interested in the site. Neither has made a formal offer.

One, she said, is interested in keeping it a theater. The other wants the building and property.

Pattie herself is open to the idea, perhaps, of reopening the theater for the summer months, if it is not sold before then.

"But I might not, too," she said. "I might really enjoy this."

The resort is a retirement community that draws people from all over the world - one couple teaches in China and lives in Cass Lake during the summer. In the past, Pattie said, she has missed out on the evening campfires and potlucks because she has to be at the theater.

"I want to do some of that," she said. "I'm looking forward to that."

The Reiplingers opened the theater 12 years ago. But Pattie, actually, had been thinking about doing so about a decade earlier. While her three sons were in school, she suggested that they open a movie theater, run it and use the proceeds for college. But no one was interested.

About 10 years later, she still had not given up on the idea.

"I really wanted to do that, to build a theater here," she said.

She had grown up meeting friends for Saturday night movies and she wanted Cass Lake kids to have the same opportunity, , Pattie said,.

"I raised three boys here, and there was never anything for them to do," she said. "You had to drive to Bemidji."

So the Reiplingers opened the theater.

Pattie and Tim did much of the work themselves. For instance, when Pattie heard the "ridiculous" cost for the necessary curtains, she ordered special fabric from New York and she and her mother made them. Also, the company that provided the movie screen talked her and Tim through how to install it themselves to save money. And, the company in charge of setting up the projector and sound systems agreed to send just one staffer and allow the Reiplingers to provide the additional labor.

"It was hilarious when I think back on it," Pattie said. "But I loved it."

The goal always was to keep costs low so ticket prices would be reasonable. One family, after the theater opened, told Pattie that thanks to the Cass Lake theater they could afford to not only take the whole family to the movies but to also share a pop and popcorn.

"And that just really made my heart feel good," Pattie said. "That's why I built it."