You can see a movie or concert – or get married – at the Crest Theatre

The International Academy of Design & Technology puts on the fashion show "IMAGINE" at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento, March 28, 2008.
The International Academy of Design & Technology puts on the fashion show "IMAGINE" at the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento, March 28, 2008. Sacramento Bee file

Walking down K Street on any given weekend night, the giant illuminated rainbow neon marquee of the Crest Theatre is hard to miss.

With its art-deco charm and grand entertainment space, the Crest offers an escape for music fans and classic movie enthusiasts. The theater, home to yearly events such as Sacramento French Film Festival and the Sacramento Japanese Film Festival, also boasts regular comedy shows and concerts.

The space opened in 1912 as a vaudeville palace called the Empress Theatre. In 1946, by then called the Hippodrome Theatre, its marquee fell onto the pavement, killing a bystander. The building soon remodeled and became the Crest Theatre. After being a premier movie palace through the 1950s and ’60s and being shuttered for a few years in the ’80s, the theater was refurbished in 2009 to return the facilities – and its popular neon marquee – to its original glory.

“It’s one of the oldest remaining movie theaters in Sacramento,” general manager Yulya Borroum said.

Five things to know

The theater has a 35mm projector – During film festival season, the Crest regularly showcases movies shot with 35mm film in addition to its digital lineup. Film fans may have most recently caught “The Princess Bride” in the format in August or movies such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Ponyo” earlier this year.

Come for the movies, stay for the live shows – To really experience the theater as it was originally designed, seeing a live performance is a must. The theater has just finished a major run of classic films, making this fall the perfect time to catch a musical show or dance.

Food and drinks are just steps away – Before going to a show, guests can head to Empress Tavern, a restaurant in the theater’s basement. It’s cozy atmosphere and brick arches provide an intimate setting.

You can get married there – The grand, art-deco style venue can be an elegant backdrop for weddings. If the price tag of the venue – which can be several thousand dollars – makes you wary, the marquee can be rented for “save-the-date” announcements or baby-gender reveals, Borroum said.

There’s a basement wall with Kurt Cobain’s shoeprints – According to Borroum, after Nirvana played a set at the theater in 1991, the band found a can of green paint and went to town covering a hallway wall across from their dressing room with footprints. Though audience members don’t have access to the area, the unique “art” is an interesting conversation starter for local music buffs.

Crest Theatre at a glance


  • Ben Folds, Paper Airplane Request Tour, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m.: As part of his solo tour across the country, the singer will take requests via paper airplanes launched by audience members.
  • Margaret Cho, Fresh off the Bloat, Thursday, Oct. 19, 7:30 p.m.: In what is described as her “sickest show yet,” the comedian is set to tackle her recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and “coming back to life – finally fished out of the river Styx.”
  • Ofrenda Dia de los Muertos, Friday, Oct. 27, at 8 p.m.: Ballet Folklórico de Sacramento will perform a live stage dance showcasing Day of the Dead festivities as celebrated in Mexico.