Sacramento Bee (California)
July 21, 2010 Wednesday
A; Pg. 16
Editorial: A new era beckons for historic theaters
Sacramento lost a gem of a movie house in 1973 when the Alhambra Theatre fell to a wrecking crew. Fortunately, the city remains home to two iconic theaters that continue to show movies – the Tower and Crest.
Both are now on the market, offering perils and opportunities.
The Blumenfelds, a Bay Area family who owns the Tower on Broadway, began marketing the Art Deco theater complex to potential buyers more than two months ago. As The Bee’s Bob Shallit reported this month, the family is seeking $5 million for the theater, the Tower Cafe, a cigar store and a comic shop along with two vacant retail spaces.
On Tuesday Shallit reported that the Crest Theatre is also for sale – for $3.12 million. The owners apparently see this as a ripe time to sell the refurbished theater, given the city’s decision last week to pursue a redevelopment plan for two blocks of blighted K Street.
Both of these movie houses are architectural treasures. The Tower was built in 1938. The site of the Crest has been a theater since 1913 and was revamped into its current reincarnation in 1949. With a loan from the city, its neon marquee was restored last fall.
Yet these theaters are not museums. They are working businesses. The challenge for whomever buys the Crest and Tower will be to help them thrive in a digital era while still respecting their historic integrity, and building upon it.
Of the two theaters, the Tower is in need of immediate tender loving care. The Blumenfeld family and Reading Entertainment, the company that leases the building, have made noises for years about revamping the Tower’s interior, but little has been done. Sacramentans have been loyal to the Tower for decades, largely because the quality of the films it presents. Yet if Reading doesn’t start repaying that loyalty with improvements, this theater could be in trouble. At that point, the next owners of the Tower would be wise to contract with another cinema company.
Across California and the country, there are examples of older movie houses that have reinvented themselves – becoming popular venues for music, comedy, public events and film festivals. The Crest, more than the Tower, has tapped into this trend. Whoever buys these theaters will have to be inventive, and attentive to Sacramento’s cultural scene, to move into the 21st century. If they do, they will flourish. The show must go on.