The Crest Theatre, Sacramento's only independently operated movie house, appears likely to lose two of its three film screens.
Crest general manager Sid Garcia-Heberger said changes in the way people watch independent films and the current renaissance of downtown's K Street have led the Crest's operators to rethink the theater's downstairs space, which now holds 168-seat and 180-seat auditoriums.
"We are watching what is happening with video on demand, and how how much change has happened at 10th and K streets, and we are looking at opportunities" for a new business to come in to occupy the Crest's below-ground space, Garcia-Heberger said.
The Crest still will show films in its 975-seat upstairs auditorium. The downstairs auditoriums "will continue operating while we explore other options," Garcia-Heberger said.
Garcia-Heberger said more independent and foreign films are being offered on cable video on demand and through services such as iTunes. That has diminished movie attendance at the Crest.
"A lot of the films that we are running are debuting on on demand prior to opening in theaters not just here at the Crest but across the country," Garcia-Heberger said. "Those other delivery methods are chipping away at how many people come to movies."
The Crest's recently restored, 10-story-high marquee has been the physical beacon for a K Street revitalization that brought in new businesses such as Pizza Rock and Dive Bar over the past few years.
Increased K Street foot traffic has translated to more attendance at concerts, film festivals and other special events at the Crest, Garcia-Heberger said, and K Street's current "hot spot" status has inspired more event presenters to choose the Crest as a venue. But attendance at nightly film showings has declined during the same period.
The Crest's downstairs space, constructed in 1997, is "pretty huge, and could be a restaurant or a jazz club," Garcia-Heberger said.
Garcia-Heberger and three business partners lease the Crest from building owner Robert Emerick. The downstairs space might get a separate lease if a new business interest comes in, Garcia-Heberger said.
The building at 1013 K St. has been a theater of some sort for nearly 100 years, starting out as a vaudevillian venue. It has been the Crest since 1949.
The Crest is home to several annual film festivals, including the Sacramento French Film Festival, held each June. French Film Festival executive director Cécile Mouette Downs was saddened to learn the Crest will lose two screens.
"It means two screens less for independent and foreign film in Sacramento," Downs said. "But I understand, because there often aren't that many people for regular screenings."
Downs patronizes Sacramento's other seven-day-a-week art house, the three-screen Tower Theatre, which is operated by the Reading theater chain. But she prefers the Crest.
"The quality of the projection at the Crest is always more professional than at the Tower," Downs said.
Garcia-Heberger said the Crest remains dedicated to showing independent films.
"It will just not be a seven-day-a-week offering," she said.
And even after the downstairs houses a different business, there still might be a bright side for movie fans, Garcia-Heberger said.
"The good news is that any time you come to see a movie at the Crest, you will know it is on the big screen."