Worth the Trip: Port Townsend theater is a Rose — and so is the town

Enjoy a cozy movie house, and venture out for scenery, salt air, music and cider.

Editor’s note: Know a favorite restaurant, historical site, unique museum or other Northwest attraction worth miles of driving, just for itself? This recurring feature, “Worth the Trip,” spotlights such destinations — along with other pleasant diversions along the way.

PORT TOWNSEND — It’s Friday night at the movies in Port Townsend. Friends and I arrive 45 minutes before showtime at the Rose Theatre’s Starlight Room on the third floor of a former Elks lodge.

Upholstered chairs and comfy couches face tall windows with views of Admiralty Inlet. One of three cinemas in a vintage multiplex that began as a vaudeville house in 1907, the room has just 46 seats, and often sells out.

“Everyone has their special chair,” says Port Townsend resident Jane Kilburn, seated in the front row next to an antique end table. Someone calls out “Lauren Bacall,” Kilburn’s signal to take a small black-and-white photo of the film star to the bar and retrieve her order of house-made hummus, olives and peppers.

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We find spots several rows back, and wait for someone to shout “Paul Newman.” Raspberry mojitos and microbrews appear along with lentil sliders and salads. Until the screen comes down and the chandeliers dim, it’s easy to forget we’re here to see a film. But mood lighting and gourmet snacks aside, the main course at the Rose is a rotating buffet of on-screen entertainment well worth a weekend visit.

A goal fulfilled

“It’s always been my goal to show both commercial and art-house films,” says Rocky Friedman, who along with partner Phil Johnson went door to door with rose-patterned carpet samples to find community investors willing to finance restoration of the theater in 1992. Twenty-five years, 15 tons of popcorn and 3,176 movies later, the Rose thrives by offering a mix of entertainment designed to appeal to Port Townsend’s well-educated population of retirees along with tourists and younger locals.

Friedman might rotate as many as a half-dozen selections within a given week, giving visitors a chance to create their own mini-film festival.

Showing recently on three screens (158 seats in the original Rose Theatre, 79 next door in the smaller Rosebud Cinema and 46 in the Starlight Room upstairs in an adjoining building) were “Wonder Woman,”…

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