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Nights on K Street will be lit up once again by the colossal Crest Theatre marquee.
A four-month restoration of the landmark neon sign wrapped up Friday when the last neon tubes were installed. Theater operators have invited the public to a relighting ceremony at 7:15 p.m. Monday -- just two weeks shy of the Crest's 60th anniversary celebration.
"When I saw the first coats of paint, my first reaction was, 'That's really bright,' " said Sid Garcia Heberger, one of four people who operate the Crest. "But once I saw it in the larger context, I realized how well it works together and how right it looks."
In May, Heberger and her partners hired YESCO sign company to perform a $213,000 restoration of the marquee. The work is part of a $360,000 renovation project on the building, which is on a list of the city's essential historic sites. Interior work is expected to be completed by year's end.
As a Sacramento landmark, the Crest Theatre's art deco sign can be found in most promotional material used by the city and the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. The theater sits at the center of K Street Mall, where redevelopment efforts are underway. The city's Economic Development Department is footing the bill for the restoration.
The sign's restoration was undertaken with the blessing of the family which that has owned the theater building for nearly 100 years.
Dr. Briggs, who owned a physicians' building at 10th and K streets, bought the 1013 K St. property in 1910. He leased it to Sullivan and Considine, men who managed vaudeville acts, and in 1913, they completed the Empress Theatre. Today, the building is held in the Briggs family trust.
New operators renamed the theatre the Hippodrome in 1918 and converted that into a movie theater in the late 1920s. The theatre was remodeled and reopened as the Crest on Oct. 6, 1949. The theater closed in 1979 after the decline of K Street Mall and dwindling ticket sales.
Over the next few years, several people tried to operate the theater. The Crest was rescued by Linda McDonagh, owner of The Palms playhouse in Davis, and Bill Heberger, Andy Field and Gary Schroeder, who were involved with the Palms, Sid Garcia Heberger said.
McDonaugh brought the trio to do the Crest's stage lighting, sound and other work so the Crest could reopen in 1986. Heberger, Field and Schroeder later took over as sole operators, said Heberger, who joined the theater in 1986 as a candy girl and became the fourth operator after marrying Bill Heberger.
YESCO workers repaired or replaced more than 45 neon light units on the marquee, which includes a 90-foot blade and reader board. They also recaptured the sign's original paint colors. The sign had been painted in pastels during its first restoration 17 years ago, said Sean Ward, YESCO's service sales representative on the project.
YESCO also built a deck and a rappelling system on the sign to make future maintenance easier. Scaffolding was removed Wednesday and the paint on the marquee received final touches Friday morning, Ward said.
After the relighting ceremony Monday night, there will be a private showing of Michael Moore's new film, "Capitalism: A Love Story."
The public is invited to return on Oct. 6 to celebrate the Crest's 60th anniversary. The theater, which seats 975, will charge filmgoers 60 cents to see Warner Bros.' only print of "That Midnight Kiss," which opened the Crest in 1949, Sid Garcia Heberger said.
"They said it's in good shape. So we're really excited to be able to present it," she said.
A digital copy of screechy 1949 newsreel footage from the Crest's opening also will be shown — for the first time in decades.
"It's really something," Heberger said. "It makes me get goosebumps whenever I look at it."
The former candy girl said the refreshment stand will be stocked with 1940s candy such as Black Crows, Jujubes and Snow Caps.
"We promise it will all be fresh candy — it won't actually be from the 1940s," she said.
Doors open at 6 p.m. The show starts at 7 p.m.
"We're not selling tickets in advance, and we're not taking credit cards," Heberger said. "We wanted to do something that was kind of a give-back to the community, just as a thank-you that the community has been supportive of the Crest."
Photo of restored Crest Theatre sign provided by YESCO sign company. Historic Crest Theatre photo used with permission from the theater. Suzanne Hurt is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.