By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Theater owner Rocky Friedman said many patrons have requested subtitles.
“Port Townsend has the oldest demographic in the state,” he said.
“Many of the people living here have some form of hearing impairment or will in the future, so we need to cater to our aging population as best we can.”
Aside from customer requests, two factors drive this action: the ability of digital projectors to easily display the titles and the possibility that such access will be required of theater owners by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The films will be presented in an open-caption format, with the subtitles positioned at the bottom of the screen.
Friedman said the major studios offer captioned versions of films, but the smaller ones haven’t quite caught up, so availability is uncertain.
The current plan is to allocate one showing a week — the Tuesday matinee — as a captioned show.
Not all film distributors provide open-caption versions of their movies, so open-caption viewing at the Rose will vary from week to week.
The Rose will indicate this new option with an “OC” next to showtimes in advertisements and on its website.
“This is an experiment,” Friedman said.
“I want to try it out and see what the response is.”
The Rose converted to a digital projection system in 2012.
The Uptown Theatre, which made its conversion in October, has no plans to offer captions but intends to “roll out all these improvements as they become available,” owner Rick Wiley said.
He hasn’t received a lot of requests for captioning, he added.
Port Townsend Film Festival Executive Director Janette Force said subtitles can enhance the moviegoing experience, even for those without hearing impairments.
The Rose originally opened in 1907 on Water Street, moving to its present location at 235 Taylor St. in 1908 and closing in November 1958.
The building did not house a movie house again until after it was restored in 1992 by Rocky Friedman and Phil Johnson, who is now Jefferson County commissioner and owns the building.
It converted to digital projection in 2012 at a cost of about $200,000.
In October, Reminisce magazine recognized the Rose as one of the top seven vintage theaters in the country.
“This is for my customers and not for myself,” Friedman said.
“My hearing is fine,” he added, “although my daughter sometimes thinks otherwise.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or email@example.com.