The Crest Theatre is a historic theater located in downtown Sacramento, California, just blocks from the State Capital, the Sacramento Convention Center, and the new Sacramento Kings basketball arena (Golden 1 Center). It was originally opened in 1912 as the Empress Theatre, a vaudeville palace. It later operated as the Hippodrome theatre. On September 14, 1946, the Hippodrome’s marquee suddenly fell to the pavement below, killing a bystander. Shortly after the tragedy, in 1949, the building was completely remodeled and revamped to its current form as the art deco Crest Theatre. During the 1950s and 1960s, it was one of the premier first-run movie palaces in the Sacramento area. In the 1970s, it was reduced to mostly sub-run fare and eventually closed in the early 1980s.
Several attempts were made to revive the theatre, ultimately succeeding in 1986. A fire in a neighboring building consumed a portion of the property in 1993, causing smoke damage but sparing the theatre. The fire insurance settlement, combined with redevelopment grants provided by the City of Sacramento, allowed for most of the restoration of the historic theatre and construction of two basement screening rooms. The restoration continued in 2009, including refurbishment of the brilliant neon marquee. The basement screening rooms were closed in 2013, reportedly due to a change in movie viewing habits and the high expense associated with converting 35 mm film projection to DCP compliant digital projection.
The theater is currently undergoing a modernization project that includes conversion of the basement screening rooms into an on-site full service restaurant (Empress Tavern), installation of high speed internet for the ticketing system, structural upgrades to support concert sound and lighting systems, installation of DCP compliant digital movie projection, and replacement of the 65-year old HVAC system. The theater retains its ability to showcase 35 mm film, and remains operational during this on-going project, hosting community events, concerts, and exhibiting foreign and independent films.