Katherine Baril, center, and other patrons arrived early for a screening of the movie “Ferrari” in the newly made-over Rosebud cinema, part of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Katherine Baril, center, and other patrons arrived early for a screening of the movie “Ferrari” in the newly made-over Rosebud cinema, part of the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Rosebud cinema blooms under new owners

Rose Theatre, Starlight room policies changed

PORT TOWNSEND — As new owners of the Rose Theatre and Starlight Room, George Marie and Michael D’Alessandro don’t fear big changes.

Their first anniversary as operators of the cinemas at 235 Taylor St. is coming up Feb. 1. The couple, who purchased the three-screen movie house from founder Rocky Friedman, bought themselves something like a classic car: They’ve tuned up or replaced various parts in order to keep it running.

The most physical change is in the newly renovated Rosebud cinema. Less than half the size of the Rose auditorium beside it, the Rosebud had withered. It was small, the floor wasn’t steep enough to provide good sightlines, and the seats needed to be replaced.

Buying new reclining theater chairs could run anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500 per seat, Marie learned. Instead, she went online last fall and shopped for sofas, loveseats and easy chairs. Her search proved fruitful.

“I found these velvet microfiber living room sets on sale in a beautiful burgundy color,” Marie said, adding she bought a set and put it in the Rose lobby, for a kind of audition.

The furniture passed muster, and in late September, the Rosebud rehabilitation began.

“Nobody was coming to see movies there. We had an average of under a dozen [patrons at Rosebud screenings] all year long. Internally, we knew it as the place movies went to die,” Marie recalled.

She tried putting the movie “Living,” starring Bill Nighy, in the Rosebud. It was in the midst of a good run at the Starlight Room, the sofa-filled cinema upstairs. After the move, almost no one went. “Living” passed away quickly.

Marie knew what she wanted in the new Rosebud: a cozy, chandelier-lit vibe. This is something like the Starlight Room, which, with its old-fashioned furnishings and vintage lighting, attracts a faithful fan base.

The Rosebud reopened Christmas Day, with its deep red couches and chairs for duos, solos and trios of moviegoers.

“We did build frames, so they look like they’re floating,” Marie said, “and they follow the slope of the floor,” providing clear sightlines to the screen.

The new sofa-loveseat-chair sets were about $1,000 each, and with the rest of the renovation costs, the redo ran about $25,000, said Marie — far less than replacing traditional movie theater seats.

The Rosebud now accommodates 41 patrons, including three who use wheelchairs. That’s five fewer than the Starlight Room’s capacity.

The Rosebud makeover is one of many Rose alterations. Soon after taking over, Marie and D’Alessandro, who have children ages 19, 17 and 8, changed the Starlight Room from a 21-and-older venue to an all-ages one.

“I don’t like exclusivity at all,” Marie said; “we have families in this town,” who should be able to see movies together.

For more information, see the Rose’s website, rosetheatre.com.

________

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

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