Rosebud Movie Palace
202 Third Avenue South,
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The Rosebud Movie Palace was hardly a “movie palace”, but that’s what it was called. It was constructed of plywood and two-by-fours, with no real architecture and no glitzy veneer. The Rosebud opened in 1974, in what had previously been a very small storefront shop in a very old building on a semi-scummy block in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.
The floor was literally plywood and the seats were mismatched, a few chairs rummaged from an older theater that had closed, a few folding chairs, a few benches made with wood, hammer, and nails. With only about 80 seats, it was often described as the smallest operating movie theater west of the Mississippi. It’s been a long time so I’m not absolutely certain, whether the screen was the kind you set up and pull down, like in high school science class, or whether the screen was literally a bedsheet pulled taut over a wall.
The Rosebud showed mostly old movies from the 1930s and ‘40s. Not the 'standard’ old movies that play at revival houses everywhere, but esoteric stuff that’s truly hard to find. The first film I saw at the Rosebud, for example, was “The Maltese Falcon” — not the 1941 version with Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre, but the 1931 version with Ricardo Cortez and Otto Matieson. It’s better than the Bogey remake, if you ask me.
The old movies were magic, the tickets were reasonably priced, and the proprietor — a guy named Dennis Nyback, who held a day job to support the theater as his hobby — was always willing to chat about old movies. The Rosebud made me a movie nut. It closed in 1981, a victim of VCRs (which made old movies much more available) and perhaps a victim of the owner’s changing mood. He went on to open bigger, better theaters around town, and eventually left Seattle. Last I heard he was running the historic Clinton Street Theater, in Portland, Oregon…
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