Local couple purchases Rose Theatre

Marie: ‘I’m serious. Let’s buy it’

George Marie and Michael D’Alessandro of Port Townsend were introduced Sunday as the new owners of the Rose Theatre. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

George Marie and Michael D’Alessandro of Port Townsend were introduced Sunday as the new owners of the Rose Theatre. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — Immediately before Sunday’s showing of the classic movie “Ball of Fire,” Rose Theatre owner Rocky Friedman dropped a bombshell — of good news.

Six months after announcing his plans to retire and sell the Rose, Friedman said he has found the ideal buyers of the movie house.

George Marie and her partner Michael D’Alessandro of Port Townsend will take ownership five weeks from now, Friedman told a nearly full Rose Theatre at 12:10 p.m. Sunday.

“They are smart, they’re sharp, they love movies, they’re absolutely committed to Port Townsend. They’re good people at heart. As patrons of the Rose, and as members … I can absolutely assure you you’re going to be in wonderful hands,” said Friedman, who has run the Rose for 30 years.

Voice quavering, he admitted he was nervous about breaking the news. Friedman chose to do it at a free screening Sunday for members of the Rose Theatre.

The popcorn-munching patrons stopped to cheer and clap as Marie and D’Alessandro came forward.

“I don’t know what to say after that. Thank you so much, Rocky,” Marie began.

“I found out the night before the announcement was made [last May], because one of the employees here told me that Rocky was selling the Rose. He kept it under his hat; kept it completely a secret.

“I said: ‘Let’s buy it.’ And he laughed. And I said, ‘No, I’m serious. Let’s buy it.’”

The purchase price for the business — the 158-seat main theater at 235 Taylor St., the 79-seat Rosebud cinema and the 40-seat Starlight Room upstairs — is listed at $899,000.

“I think I was one of the first people to call Rocky’s Realtor,” Marie said.

“We immediately knew that this is an absolute treasure in our community. This is the heart. The Rose is the heart of our community.”

More applause flowed as Marie and D’Alessandro’s young son, Emile, joined them at the front of the theater.

Marie continued, assuring the audience she and her family are “100 percent committed to this town, and 100 percent committed to stewarding the Rose so that it can last for generations to come.”

Marie, D’Alessandro and their three children moved to Port Townsend from Portland, Ore., eight years ago.

“We’re so honored,” Marie said, “to become part of this beautiful thing that Rocky has built, that [building owners] Phil Johnson and Sandy Johnson helped build, and the community has helped build.”

A man in the audience asked her to “introduce your vice president,” meaning the boy standing beside them.

“Oh, yes. We pay him in candy. This is Emile,” Marie answered, holding the microphone out to her son. He declined to give a speech, sparking laughter in the crowd.

Marie is well-known for her work as program manager of Centrum’s Port Townsend Writers’ Conference and other writing programs at Fort Worden State Park.

D’Alessandro is also prominent in the nonprofit sector as co-executive director of Olympic Angels, an organization supporting children in foster care in Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Marie noted that her eldest daughter Sophia James is a popcorn server at the Rose while her son Henri is also a staff member there.

Friedman told the audience on Sunday that he’d received about 30 offers from prospective buyers. The qualities he was seeking, he said, were “bursting with energy and fresh ideas, and yet not on Medicare,” which drew more laughs.

D’Alessandro, for his part, simply thanked the people in the theater for making an independent cinema possible on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“I do want to say one more thing,” Marie added.

“One thing that’s really important for us to know as the new owners [is] the Rose does not exist without this community, right? We are here to serve you, and you are really what makes this happen.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Townsend.

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