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Former Crest Theatre manager shares history

Matias Bombal Interviewed on SacTV.com

Matias Bombal managed the Crest Theatre from 1986 to 1991 and was part of the restoration team that put the movie house back in business after several years of darkness. Last week he met with SacTV.com to do a series of video interviews about the theater’s history and how the theater business has evolved. He became known in town from appearing on Channel 58 to introduce classic films. Matias went on to help restore the Guild and Colonial theaters and then moved to Oregon for several years to run a theater and co-host a radio show. Now in Sacramento, he is working on a YouTube video series that will offer movie reviews.

At age nineteen in 1986, Matias rose to manager of the Crest, working with a team of partners who put the structure back on the map as a movie theater and also transformed it into a live entertainment venue. The Crest, which opened in 1949, had strictly been a movie house, although if you go further back in history when the building had a different name, it was a different story. The space that now occupies the theater at one time was part of another building called the Empress, which opened in 1913. The name changed in 1918 to the Hippodrome, which offered a mix of movies and live entertainment until closing in 1946. The first live show at the Crest was the Shirelles in 1986.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Matias moved to Berkeley in 1968 at age one and then Sacramento in 1976. He developed an interest in music of the 1920s and 1930s, which prepared him for a show he hosted on KXJZ. Over the years he has also established himself as an MC for live presentations. Although he never set out to be an actor, he has appeared in numerous films. His knowledge of Sacramento history and his ability to articulate colorful stories are manifesting into opportunities to do more local history videos.  Matias is also the Vice President of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America in Sacramento. 

In this SacTV video series Matias talks about the early days of the Crest, particularly the Hollywood-style grand opening in 1949. In the next  segment he goes deeper into the early history of the theater, when it was called the Empress and then Hippodrome. In the third segment he describes the work he’s done since managing movie theaters, which includes developing a video show for smart phones. The fourth segment is about the future of movie theaters, in which Matias suggests that many cinemas will likely evolve into live entertainment venues. He urges patrons to support establishments that show movies if they don’t want to see the big screen experience disappear. 

Matias believes that movies will always be around, but isn’t sure movie theaters will survive because of the cost of the rapidly changing expensive digital technology. As more people have transformed their homes into personal movie theaters and can order movies at their fingertips, it’s a good bet that YouTube culture and people programming their own entertainment will continue to be a trend in society. But people who want to see live entertainment will always need live venues. The big screen will probably never go away completely. It’s like how drive-In theaters never disappeared completely, since there are still a few left.

The Crest is one of the most interesting landmarks in town because it clearly represents several eras and still appears to be a vibrant destination on the Kay. It certainly has gained a lot of history as a live venue since its renovation and reopening in 1986. Although the seating capacity has been reduced since its early days, the Crest is still one of the finest places in town to enjoy any event, live or recorded. It simply has an atmosphere and ambiance that inspires conversations. Like the Memorial Auditorium, it’s a fixture that has told many historic stories and helps define Sacramento culture. 

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