Rosebud Movie Palace

202 Third Avenue South,
Seattle, WA 98104

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ROSE BUD MOVIE PALACE Theatre; Seattle, Washington, 1978.

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…

Contributed by Helen Highwater

Recent comments (view all 3 comments)

gittes98 on July 13, 2007 at 3:21 am

Yes, this was a great place to see old movies before the advent of the VCR. Used to come down from Vancouver BC to see such rarities as The great Ziegfeld, Wings, A Free Soul and Cavalcade the latter of which I could cheerfully hold over my friends for years since it gave me the chance to see all the Oscar Winning Best Pictures til that time (or at least until it was finally released on VHS)It was a terrific theatre near Pioneer Square that closed in the early 80s and was still possible to park your car nearby and not have anything happen to it. Wish there were more like it.

theonlydennisnyback on December 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

The Rosebud Movie Palace was built and opened in 1974 by Chris and Tim Curtis. I took it over in 1979 wheb they moved on to open the Pike Place Cinema (later Market Theater) in the Pike Place Market. The Rosebud had 88 seats and they all matched, although it didn’t start that way. It had a commercial theater screen that was permanently attached to the wall at the front of the auditorium. It was a sad day when I emptied the premises and locked the door for the last time in in 1981. The advent of home video was not the only reason it closed. The Supersonics moving into the Kingdome really took a hit on available parking in the area. The Mariners, as lightly attended as they were, also sucked up parking. There were also personal reasons. The final nail in the coffin was the sale of the building from a friendly landlord to a less friendly landlord who subsequently wanted to jack up the rent. For anyone interested, my film archive is now housed at Marylhurst University where we installed a 35mm projection booth in 2009 where my wife Anne and I curated the Oregon Sesquicentennial Film Festival. That ten day event included appearances by James Ivory, Gus Van Sant, Chris Eyre, and others. High points of the festival included screenings of archival prints of Mr. Ivory’s first commercial success Shakespeare Wallah, Mr. Eyre’s first film Smoke Signals and F.W. Murnau’s City Girl with a new score written by John Paul and performed by a chamber group led by him. City Girl was shot on location in Athena, Oregon. I have corrected the street view above. The theater was in the second storefront in from the corner.

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