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Free Matinees in Perham are a tradition that goes back decades

The Comet Theater is offering Free Christmas Matinees once again, starting Nov. 25 with the Lego Batman movie showing at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. (Kim Brasel / FOCUS).

Pam's Wilson's family has owned the Comet theater since 1972, and she remembers going to the free Christmas matinees even before her family owned it.

"I remember the free matinees since day one; we went when I was a kid, and when we bought the theater we kept the tradition up."

She says the family maintained the tradition not only because it's good business but also because it's good for the community.

They understood that for some families, going out for a movie or just any type of entertainment for that matter, wasn't necessarily financially possible, so her family wanted to keep it going.

"I have some great memories of it as a kid, and it's a great community event," she said, adding that although it's a lot of work, she knows the community looks forward to it.

She picks the movies based on what had a good turnout during the course of the year. This year that included Despicable Me 3, Trolls, the Lego Batman Movie, Nut Job 2, and Boss Baby.

The feedback from families over the years has been positive, with many thanking her. Some she only sees during this time of year, but she understands why.

Pam gives credit to the businesses in the community making the event possible with their donations. The kids not only get a free movie, but different free goodies with each movie. Shearers is giving away chips, KLN licorice and free soda. Also this year, Whisk is making trolls cookies to go along with the Troll movie.

Holly Flatau, owner of Whisk, says last year was the first year her business was open during Christmas, and when Pam asked her to be a sponsor she was on board without hesitation.

"I come from a big family and I have kids, so I think this is a great thing to do for the community," she says.

This year, though, in addition to being a sponsor, Holly felt like doing something a little extra baking sugar cookies in the shape of trolls that will be handed out after the movie, Trolls.

Laughing, she says the goal is to bake them in the shape of trolls; however, Pam is expecting 400 to attend the showing that night, so just in case that lofty goal doesn't work out, she might have to go with with something simpler.

Each cookie will come with coupon for a free hot cocoa at Whisk good for one week.

"It might be nice for them to go to the movie, then come by and have some hot chocolate, you know, make a day of it," she added.

Movie goers are asked to bring in a non perishable food item if they can, but it's not required. The amount collected varies each year. Pam says last year they collected around 1,000 pounds of food.

Despite all the work it takes to put the free matinees on, Pam can't imagine not having the event.

"If not for the community help we couldn't do it all. All the shows are sponsored by local business people. We just put it all together."