Crest Theatre’s preservation behind purchase

A desire to protect the historic Crest Theatre helped push someone to buy it last week.

Bob Emerick, a wastewater treatment engineer with Stantec Consulting Services in Rocklin, said a love of historic architecture and Sacramento's loss of the Alhambra Theatre helped motivate him to buy the theatre complex for nearly $2.8 million Wednesday. The asking price was $3.12 million.

The 41-year-old said he's too young to have really experienced the Alhambra, which was demolished in the 1970s to make way for a supermarket. 

But he heard stories about how grand the Alhambra was from his parents and grandparents. Those stories greatly influenced him to act when he learned the Crest was up for sale last summer.

"It just leaves an impression that these old buildings need someone to watch after them," he said. "I love the Crest Theatre. It's a beautiful venue."

His grandparents once lived behind Tower Theatre. Emerick, who was born in Sacramento, also looked into buying that theater but realized he couldn't buy both. Buying the 61-year-old Crest made more sense because it was restored recently, he said.

Emerick developed a love for historic architecture when he restored an old house in Oak Park while he was a grad student in engineering at UC Davis. 

He said he is exploring the possibility of bringing more live music events to the Crest now. Otherwise, the Crest will continue operating nearly seamlessly after he bought a complex that measures about 38,000 square feet. The complex includes three restaurants, plus office and retail space.

Emerick bought the property from the Briggs-McClatchy family. Colliers International brokers Erik Neese and Heath Charamuga handled the deal.

The Crest's current operators – Sid Garcia-Heberger and her husband, Bill Heberger, Andy Field and Gary Schroeder – will continue running the theater. They show movies and rent the theater to individuals and organizations who wants to do shows.

The Briggs-McClatchy family owned the theater and adjacent property for nearly 100 years. Dr. Briggs, who owned a physician's building at 10th and K streets, bought the 1013 K St. property in 1910. Briggs married a McClatchy, whose family operated The McClatchy Company and The Sacramento Bee.

He leased it to vaudeville pioneer John Considine and New York politician Tim Sullivan, and in 1913, they completed the Empress Theatre. The Empress offered live vaudeville with seating for about 1,800. 

The Empress was replaced by the Hippodrome, which also brought vaudeville performers to Sacramento before being turned into a movie theater in the late 1920s. 

The Hippodrome was gutted, and the Crest was built within its walls. The Crest opened Oct. 6, 1949.

Emerick owns one other commercial building – an office building in Reno. 

The change in the theater's ownership follows other new development on K Street Mall. Two bars and a pizza restaurant opened across the street from the Crest last month, and a restaurant and tequila bar is expected to open at 12th and K next month. 

Emerick said he wants to bring more live entertainment to the Crest to help encourage K Street's evolution.

"It's really a venue for Sacramento," he said. "As all of K Street evolves to become more of an entertainment district, all of the tenants will respond accordingly."


Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow her on Twitter @SuzanneHurt.

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February 7, 2011 | 9:25 PM

It’s already a frequent live music venue.

Avatar of rph
February 7, 2011 | 11:27 PM

Along with the loss of the Alhambra theater was the loss of the Alameda Theater on ‘L’ St. It was torn down and replaced by the parking structure next to Macy’s. The Alameda was a burlesque theater, home of the “Alameda Lovelies”.

February 8, 2011 | 7:16 AM

Like the old live music venues on Capitol Avenue, burlesque houses like the Alameda were considered “blight” and used as justification for the neighborhood’s destruction. Good to see someone buying a piece of K Street’s entertainment legacy with the intent of preservation instead of demolition.

February 8, 2011 | 7:37 AM

RPH or Bill: I remember the Fox and Encore theaters on K St., but not the Alameda on L. Did the Alameda convert from burlesque to movie theater before it met the redevelopment wrecking ball? Do you know when was it knocked down?

There was also another movie house on K St., across from the Encore (which was itself next to the current Esquire). Anybody recall its name?

Has anyone written up the history of Saramento’s movie theaters, burlesque houses and music venues? If not, it would be an a very interesting project.

February 8, 2011 | 9:04 AM

Andrew Flink wrote “A Century of Cinema in Sacramento” about ten years ago, but it is out of print. The Alameda was at 328 L Street (according to that work) and operated from 1943 to 1960. The same building had once housed the Nippon Theater (from 1907 to 1919, and from 1926-1942), which showed Japanese films to meet the demands of the residents of Sacramento’s large Japanese neighborhood, mostly just south of L Street. In 1942, when Sacramentans of Japanese ancestry were interned during World War II, the theater was almost certainly sold, as were most (if not all) Japanese owned properties in the neighborhood.

I don’t know for sure but the Alameda was probably started as a movie theater before becoming a burlesque house: through the 1950s and 1960s as the central city was emptied of families (and most residents), “adult” businesses opened downtown, including strip clubs and adult bookstores, in existing theaters and storefronts.

A lot of theaters changed names and facades over time, like the Crest which started out as a vaudeville house, after a fire became the Hippodrome, then closed after the Hippodrome marquee collapsed, killing two people underneath, and reopening as the remodeled Crest.

There were a lot of theaters along K Street (and J and L, and along the numbered streets): some were tiny, like the Sequoia Theater, now occupied by a Mexican restaurant on the ground floor of the Sequoia Hotel, and some were grand, like the Senator, whose facade still exists across the street at 912K but whose theater, across the alley ending on L Street (patrons entered via an elevated passageway through the alley), has long since been demolished.

Avatar of rph
February 8, 2011 | 4:29 PM

The other one at that end of ‘K’ was the “Times”. In the early 70′s it showed second run films, always a double feature for a buck. They also had great air conditioning, so that was a good cheap way to cool off on a hot day. But eventually they became a porno place. There was another theater on 9th between J & I, I can’t recall the name, it also became a porno house. There was a small bar next to it called the “Satin Doll”, must have been owned by a Duke Ellington fan.

February 8, 2011 | 3:15 PM

I know I’m hardly alone in my awe of and praise for Mr. Burg’s near-encyclopedic informational contributions to so many vital city issues routinely discussed here on SacPress. He’s a constant inspiration, IMO.

Avatar of tab
February 9, 2011 | 12:11 AM

Great to hear about someone like you Bob who have intentions on preservation of one of Sacs artistic treasures and your plans for more shows to help the new K street project. this will definitely be an added delight to the great new life on K street such as the Dive Bar, Pizza Rock, and District 30 among others on the street. You plans sound exciting! Awesome! Kudos to you!!

February 15, 2011 | 7:33 PM

I wish someone who cares would buy the Tower Theater and save it from the people who’ve been ruining it for the past 30+ years! It needs to be de-triplexed and restored to its original large auditorium! I live within biking distance so I’d probably see most movies that played there, but I simply don’t go to cut-up theaters!

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