Extended History/Tour

To find out more about Crest's historic milestones, please click on the links/images on the following timeline.


1912 ~ The Empress
1949 ~ The Crest Theatre








1918 ~ The Hippodrome
1986 ~ Re-opening



1986 ~ Re-opening

"Linda said "How about if we just clean it up as it stands and show films". The audience just stared at her and Andy for proposing such a preposterous idea.

REINCARNATION OF THE CREST - 1986

By the Spring of 1986 the theater was again tired. Six years of fits and spurts of big dreams collapsing had worn the old girl down. The owners and the management company were tired of supporting a closed theatre. They called together people interested in the Crest, including Linda McDonagh, a theatre owner from Davis. Linda had opened the Palms Public Playhouse in 1976 and by 1986, it had become one of the most popular clubs in the Sacramento area and a favorite among the folk music circuit. She brought with her Andy Field, a successful engineer who had built a business incorporating electrical engineering and sound design, for his technical expertise.

At this meeting Linda and Andy listened to various ideas to extensively remodel the building. Andy had already crawled through the entire theater and found that the infrastructure was basically sound, just needing a bit of TLC. So after listening to all the ideas, Linda said "How about if we just clean it up as it stands and show films". The audience just stared at her and Andy for proposing such a preposterous idea. The one person who was intrigued by it was Craig Bratton, the property manager. He told Linda to further develop her plan and present it to him. Linda and Andy swung into high gear assembling the team that would eventually culminate in the reopening of the Crest. They brought in Charlie Soderquist, for financial support, a painting contractor, a plumber, Linda Pugh (a co-founder of the Palms), Bill Heberger and Gary Schroeder (friends and coworkers of Andy's) and a host of volunteers. When Linda and Andy took control of the Crest on October 1, 1986 they met two additional people: Kenny Smith, who had worked at the theater for years and Matias Bombal. Matias had a long standing love affair with the movies. When he heard that the Crest was being reopened he came down and offered his help. He had worked at the theater before and knew not only the building but also film presentation. He and Kenny were invaluable to Andy as there were no plans, maps or diagrams outlining the systems of the Crest, Andy was given a key and told to go for it. The work was delayed for a couple days to have the carpets cleaned as the smell was just too strong for people to work around. The door to the mechanical equipment room had been left open and the tenants of the next door Shasta had used the room as a bathroom. There were no projectors although the pedestals and lamphouses from the Fox Senator were still there along with the ransacked sound system, installed in the 50's. The first couple days were fun as Andy felt more like a spelunker rather than a engineer as he traced wires and explored the infrastructure. He and Linda laid out the plan of attack and set the date of Nov 16 as the opening date.

BEFORE RENOVATION

Before Before Before

The work began. The cleaners cleaned, the painters painted, the plumbers plumbed, the financier financed and Andy, Gary and Bill set about rewiring the projection booth, candy counter, procuring projectors (and at the same time learning about 35mm projection ) and in general orchestrating the symphony of general chaos. The lobby needs to be described at this time. There was no light except for scattered worklights as Andy and Bill were slowly restoring the neon. The furniture for the lobbies had been delivered early in the process but had to be kept in the center to allow for the painting of the lobby walls. There were clumps of equipment - ladders, paint, tarps and tools. One time Bill fell asleep on a couch in the lobby and when Andy was ready to leave, he searched the whole theatre for him and couldn't find him until, tired from the search, he sat down on the couch (and Bill). Relations with the Fire Department got off to a bad start when the inspector remarked as he walked through the door "We lost two men here" even though the incident occurred in 1921. The issue was the fireproofing of the grand drape which had been installed in the 1960's. They demanded evidence that they had been fireproofed which was cleared up when the original fireproofing tags were found on the drapes. A piece was cut off and a burn test was successfully completed with the Fire Department present. Andy and Bill became neon technicians relighting the lobby and tackling the bigger job of the auditorium's indirect lighting. When Andy first turned on the auditorium lighting, various sections came on some white, some red, and some blue, then the circuits breakers starting popping off like popcorn due to bad transformers and wiring. After hours of work and some greatful assistance from River City Signs, the restoration was complete. Gary designed and installed the projection and lighting controls, as well as much of the new wiring.

AFTER RENOVATION

After After After

Linda's vision was to recreate the era of the late forties when the Crest had originally opened. A green wool jacket was found and replicas were ordered from a local seamstress. Ads were placed for ushers and usherettes who had a background in theater as the aim was to have them recreate the ushers of a bygone era which were run with military precision. Former usherettes from the glory days of the Crest and the Alhambra were recruited to help instruct the new force in the art of correct theatre behavior, all but forgotten with the advent of multiplexes.

The question of what to do for the opening slowly resolved itself The team of Linda, Matias and Steve Sterling came up with the idea of screening "Singin' in the Rain" with one or two of the original stars present.

MGM was contacted and the print secured. Donald O'Conner agreed to come. Linda, with foresight and knowing that nobody on the team had ever actually run a movie theater, had scheduled a sneak preview of "There's No Business like Show Business" on the Saturday before the Tuesday grand reopening. There was now a date with destiny, everything had to be done (or at least well hidden) by Saturday. The projectors were finally installed Friday and tested Saturday, only hours before the doors opened. Sidney Blackstone, originally hired to serve popcorn, when confronted with the candy counter on Friday said "I want soap, a bucket, soap, a mop, more soap and get out of my way" had us all running for cover. Steve's famous saying "We're on the verge of a major media disaster!" still makes us smile as we knew that there was an element of truth in it. As Saturday dawned, the pace became frantic, shifting to covering up rather than restoration. All the tools and debris had to be cleaned up or hidden and, by showtime,, every area hidden from public view was crammed with tools and supplies. Sidney Blackstone had to stock the candy counter at the same time Gary's father, Lee, was laying the formica on the counter itself. Larry Dunn was cleaning and polishing everything in sight. Andy and Phil Smoot, a projectionist from local 252, were fine tuning the projectors running test reels of Ethel Merman to shake the bugs out of the system. At the rather insistent request of the Fire Dept., the lobby exit to the alley was being moved 12 inches to meet code. Bill was making trips to the dump, tackling the huge pile of debris in the driveway, pulled from the basement where someone had been living. Linda Pugh was in the office making pill box hats to complete the ushers outfits.. In short, total chaos.

By 7:00 pm when the doors opened, everything looked perfect (as perfect as it could get it) and the preview evening went off without a hitch. The tools were brought out again and work recommenced until the big day. The evening started with Jerry Curry, a well known local dance instructor, as he led a group of dancers on the mall with umbrellas, recreating the dances from the film. Steve was with the O'Connors waiting for the cue. Andy, Gary and Bill were in tuxedos nervously pacing, Sidney and her staff were furiously popping popcorn and Linda was hovering The near capacity crowd was held outside until the limo pulled up and one of Hollywood's greatest gentlemen stepped out and was greeted by flashbulbs and applause. Linda and Matias escorted the O'Connors to the front door where Donald O'Connor cut a ribbon of film and the Crest was officially open again. The people streamed in and were seated. The ceremonies began, the mayor, the Honorable Ann Rudin was introduced, and Donald O'Connor was presented to the audience. Mr. O'Connor thanked the crowd and introduced the film, the classic "Singin' in the Rain".

When MGM found out that Donald O'Connor was going to be in attendance, they ordered at their expense, a brand new print of the film. It was pristine. The original plan was for Mr. O'Connor to introduce the film and then sneak out as you can guess how many times he had seen the picture. However, he stayed through the whole film, later saying that he had not seen such a spectacular print since its original opening. The crowd knew he was still in the auditorium and gave him a standing ovation at the end of his famous sequence of dancing and singing "Make Em' Laugh". The evening was a smashing success, making the front page of the Bee. The O'Connors were escorted back to their hotel after having a grand time and the theater was properly launched. In Spring of 1988, Andy and his crew installed a stage, theatrical lighting, a sound system, and the Crest was in the concert business opening with The Shirelles.

In 1990, CSLM Inc. embarked on the restoration of the Crest's 95 foot signature marquee. River City Signs were hired to do the work. Historic sandings were done on the layers of paint that covered the sign's once bright colors. A map was made of the original color scheme and in the summer of 1990 the sign was engulfed in scaffolding in preparation of a full rehab. Painting began late on a Friday afternoon and by Monday the phones were ringing off the hook. The bright colors did not mesh with the days sensibilities and a battle ensued with the City over the colors. A compromise was made and the bright colors were exchanged for a more muted pallet. The work was completed in 1991 and a celebration was held with a special screening of "Casablanca" as the main attraction.

In 1993, tragedy struck again as an arsonist's fire engulfed the retail shops next to the Crest damaging the newly rehabilitated marquee and the theatre interior. Sacramento City Fire crew successfully fought to save the grand dame from devastation. Smokey and water damaged, the theatre was closed while crews worked around the clock to clear the air and clean the damaged seats and carpets. After just 8 days the theatre was ready for business once again.

After the fire, discussions began about what shape the replacement building would take and it was decided to put two smaller theatres into the basement of the new building. Thus Screens 2 and 3 of the Crest were born. At 180 and 168 seats they were smaller than the grand old house, but outfitted with modern amenities. This enabled the Crest to run a 7 day a week schedule of art, foreign, documentaries and indie films -something that was not possible in the stand alone historic Crest. Now the complex can be run as a 3 screen cinema complex or as a stand alone special event theatre with a 2 screen complex.

Remember the conflict about the paint on the marquee? In 2009, the City stepped up again and helped out with a refurbish of the marquee by YESCO - using the colors that the marquee was originally painted. There was other work done - most notably a new boiler as the building was prepared to enter its second century.

Over the past 25 years, the Crest has been a host to many different types of shows and events. It continues to host a program of classic and current films, concerts such as Cab Calloway, Merle Haggard, No Doubt, B.B. King, and Dave Brubeck and a variety of comedy shows such as Joan Rivers, Robin Williams, Lisa Lampanelli and Lewis Black. Community events include the Ellies, dance competitions, body building competition, children' theatre, Legislature screenings and business meeting. The Crest is also home to many of the local film festivals including the French, Jewish, Film & Music, Japanese, A Place Called Sacramento, Gay & Lesbian, and the Trash Film Orgy. In addition, the Crest is frequently used for private events such as political fundraisers, receptions, movie screenings, conferences, and weddings.

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