PORT TOWNSEND — It’s not something Rose Theatre owner Rocky Friedman ever pictured himself doing.
But last week, the Rose became what Friedman calls “a mini, mini, mini Netflix,” streaming a selection of first-run movies online.
Dramas and documentaries including “Saint Frances,” “The Times of Bill Cunningham,” “Cordillera of Dreams” and “Slay the Dragon” are arriving in the Rose’s “screening room,” from their distribution companies.
Available for multi-day rental, they run $4.99 to $12 per household, depending on the film.
“I’m streaming five movies right now,” Friedman said Friday, “and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were streaming eight to 10 by this time next week.”
Like the rest of the cinemas across the region, the 28-year-old Rose Theatre, at 235 Taylor St., went dark in mid-March as Gov. Jay Inslee announced statewide bans on gatherings and non-essential commerce.
The Uptown Theatre in Port Townsend and the Deer Park Cinema east of Port Angeles remain closed until further notice.
Several of the movies Friedman is streaming via RoseTheatre.com are new releases he could have shown on screens at the Rose and Starlight Room right about now, had the coronavirus pandemic not upended his and his patrons’ lives.
Others are films released in recent months, such as “Fantastic Fungi” and “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band,” both of which have already played to good turnouts at the Rose and Starlight.
“It’s a wonderful thing these distributors are doing,” Friedman said, adding that streaming the independent films serves both the companies and the small theaters across the continent.
The distributors — Magnolia Pictures, Greenwich Entertainment, Oscilloscope Laboratories and Icarus Films — know the Rose and its ilk are their bread and butter, he said.
The revenue is split down the middle: the Rose Theatre receives half the rental fee and the distributor the other half.
What’s not as quantifiable is the connection Friedman hopes to keep strong with cinema lovers. On the theater’s website, he gives short reviews of the movies available for streaming.
“A free treasure trove of online movies is now available courtesy of the Library of Congress,” he notes, and for those who are lamenting cancellation of April’s Port Townsend Dance Film Festival, he adds a link to Fort Worden’s Madrona MindBody Institute, which offers online dance classes.
Many have shown their loyalty to the cinema and its curated movies: The Rose surpassed 1,000 members by late last year, and since its closure, even more have renewed memberships and bought gift certificates for future moviegoing.
When asked if he might offer curbside popcorn pickup, Friedman laughed.
Such thoughts have crossed his mind, but his hands are full for now as he previews movie after movie. He’s passed on streaming some films he said are “way too heavy” for the times we’re living in.
The Rose would have been the venue for the nonprofit Port Townsend Film Festival’s Women & Film event this month.
Festival executive director Janette Force said her operation is being pushed to evolve rapidly; she’s in the process of making some Women & Film movies, along with their directors, available via PTFilmFest.com. The homepage has a link to the newsletter, Force noted, and it will have details about viewing.
The much larger Port Townsend Film Festival set for September’s third weekend will probably become “a hybrid of streamed and live events, if they are socially redeemable and safe,” Force said.
For his part, Friedman said he’s more concerned about the period after the Rose reopens — in late June or early July is his “wild guess.”
He said he can’t know how people will feel about coming out to the 158-seat Rose, the adjacent 79-seat Rosebud and 46-seat Starlight Room.
The future of filmgoing, he said, “is all new territory.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.