If you’ve spent any time in Sacramento, chances are you’ve visited the Crest Theatre. Whether you were seeing a restored version of a favorite old movie on the big screen, sweating in the pit under a wild rock band, groaning at the Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation or joining in the chorus at the Singalong Sound of Music, you had a memorable experience under that gold-painted ceiling. For 17 years, one woman has orchestrated all that fun. Crest manager Sid Heberger’s creative diligence has ensured the venue’s success in an era in which independent theaters are an endangered species. How does she do it? It takes a whole lot of ingenuity and a little bit of evil.
What’s your history at the Crest?
I started at the concession stand. I was going to college and working at the concession stand for the UA at Arden Fair. I met [former Crest manager] Matias Bombal in 1986 at the World’s Longest Poetry Reading at Java City, hosted by B.L. Kennedy. Matias decided I was the perfect person to run the Crest’s concession stand. I don’t know why he decided that, but he harassed me regularly about interviewing for the job. I didn’t want the job. The day of the interviews, Matias called me every 30 minutes for about seven hours. I came home, and my roommates were irritated to no end. “This guy just keeps calling, and he won’t take no for an answer! He’s going to make you the concessions manager!” So, I threw on a nice-looking outfit and interviewed and, of course, I got the job. Come to find out being the concessions manager at the Crest Theatre at that time meant I was the only one running concessions.
So, I came in and started bossing people around almost immediately. ["No, immediately!” yells an employee from the outer office.] OK, immediately. I started working here in October of 1986. By March of 1988, I was managing the place. A few months after that, I became a stockholder in the corporation, and here I remain today.
The Crest is Sacramento’s only independent theater. Why is that so rare?
As evidenced by the Starbucks on every corner, it’s the way things are progressing these days. You have the independents competing against the big mega-conglomo-rama-corporations, and the competition is pretty tough. You don’t have the same buying power, advertising power and ability to spread overhead as you would if you were a large corporation. It’s tough to stay alive.
How do you do it at the Crest?
The key to our success has been keeping our eggs out of one basket. We do a lot of different stuff. When we first came into the Crest, we were going to do concerts primarily. We quickly realized the concert market was not enough to keep the place going, so we started branching out. By keeping our programming really diverse, we’ve kept out of trouble.
What’s it like competing for films against the chains?
It can be frustrating and disappointing. Sometimes it even chips away at your ego: “Why can’t I get this movie?” Then, there are the wins. We present ourselves as a quality operation. We take very good hands-on care of the movies we bring here, and we have a reputation for that, so sometimes that gives us a leg up.
What are some of your favorite events here?
We hosted Sun Ra back in 1988. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen here. Cab Calloway was pretty spectacular. The Singalong Sound of Music was a lot of fun.
Did people actually sing?
Oh, you bet! They came in costume. We had men in lederhosen. We had a woman come as a teabag, as tea from the “Do-Re-Mi” song. The Trash Film Orgy is something else I’m tremendously proud of. What else? Smell-O-Vision! Were it not for the Crest, Smell-O-Vision would never make it to our region! I think that is a great public service.
At the Trash Film Orgy, you play Sid the Evil Crest Manager. How close is that character to your real-life personality?
Sid the Evil Crest Manager is a very freeing experience for me. Because the Crest is an arts facility, sometimes I have to be more proper than I’d like. So, to be able to bark at patrons and call them degenerates and make them sweep up popcorn messes is very freeing. I think the patrons who experience me in my full evilness enjoy it.
Did you have acting experience before the Trash Film Orgy?
I acted in college, and I used to be in a troupe called Art This! But when I started here, I focused on behind-the-scenes stuff. Then, Keith Lowell Jensen [creator of Trash Film Orgy] asked me to play the evil manager in a skit where I “take back” the theater and tell the trash fans I’m going to make them watch something artsy and subtitled.
It was so wonderful to be onstage again. When I got offstage, I was pacing around like a wild animal and thinking, “I gotta get me some more of that!”
Then Keith asked me to join [the sketch-comedy troupe] I Can’t Believe It’s Not Comedy, and I’ve been hooked on acting ever since.
Are you going to tour with I Can’t Believe It’s Not Comedy?
Yep. We’re taking it on the road. Our World Domination Tour starts at the end of February.
How will the Crest survive your absence?
The Crest survived my maternity leave. They can survive my World Domination Tour.