Described by patrons as "the thrill," a "jewel" and a "game-changer," Theatre DeVille opened Saturday night to a select group of local residents, business people and elected officials, with several saying the estimated $2 million-plus refurbished movie theater likely will transform downtown Vacaville.
"This is our jewel of the downtown, a diamond for the downtown," said a wide-eyed and clearly impressed Heidi Campini of Vacaville, among the first to walk through the 308 Main St., entrance and into the dazzlingly new theater, the stage highlighted by a restored and shiny proscenium that once surrounded the original Clark Theatre's single silver screen. "I like to say, 'The thrill of the DeVille.' "
Standing amid the entertainment venue's spacious dance floor, the theater's overarching color theme an Art Deco-inspired black and gray, she added, "It's sophisticated -- look at that red curtain," as her eyes glanced toward the stage backdrop, its redness increased by the LED lighting, and to the elevated stage, where shiny band instruments belonging to Antsy McClain & The Trailer Park Troubadours, a Nashville-based Americana band that served as the evening's musical entertainment, waited to be played. Bay Area-based comedian Will Durst, known to cast a cold eye on all people, places and things political, was to serve as event emcee.
Campini also noted the proscenium's horizontal stretch, its center highlighted with the dates 1926 (when the Clark opened) and 2014 and the name Theatre DeVille.
"It's honoring the heritage of downtown Vacaville," she said, looking upward and smiling.
She had visited the 10,000-square-foot construction site some two months ago, when electricians and carpenters were still busy at work bringing into being the vision of theater owners Jason Johnson and Royce Farris. Campini was mildly agog at the quick progress the construction workers had made inside the three-story building, its exterior also boasting a black-and-gray color scheme.
Earlier in the evening -- before the main doors swung open for the crowd queued-up under the theater's three-sided electronic marquee -- Johnson and Farris again said their years-in-the-making project (including 13 months of actual construction) will be a center for mostly live music concerts of all genres. But it also will be a place for comedy, classic movies, community theater, speakers, festivals, special and corporate events, private parties, receptions, celebrations and fundraisers. They plan a Feb. 13 grand opening, continuing through Valentine Day's weekend, but declined to disclose a pending entertainment lineup, saying contracts had been tendered but still needed to be signed.
In a succession of quick answers to questions, they provided a snapshot of the venue's capacities and amenities: seating capacity: 620 (maximum capacity, general admission seating); number of employees: 25 full and part-time; executive chef: Joey Jaraba; sound system: Meyer Sound Laboratories Inc. of Berkeley; number of kitchens: two; number of bars: 5 1/2; number of restrooms: four; stage size: 28 by 34 feet; a "green room" for entertainers; and an elevator with five stops.
They agreed the project was "a journey," a little overbudget and opening slightly later than they originally planned, with Farris, a Vacaville native and Vacaville High graduate, adding, "There were always surprises -- change orders, lots of change orders."
Of all the theater's elements, the one that made the greatest impression on them, after the carpenters, electricians, painters and other workers packed up their tools and materials a couple of weeks ago, was the capacious dance floor, made possible because first-floor seating is removable.
Farris was nearly as impressed with the sound system, comparing it to the finest in the Bay Area in similar venues of comparable size.
They believe their theater -- with balcony seating, comfy seats with noticeable leg room, and good sight lines everywhere --will have a significant impact on the character of downtown Vacaville. Farris expects the musical acts to "bring in people from neighboring cities." In a previous interview, they noted more than 2 million people live within a 45-minute drive of downtown Vacaville.
Their immediate plans are to make it all work "and keep it a great place," said Farris, who hopes to keep the theater, its multimillion-dollar makeover designed by Robert Sesar of RSA Architecture of Vacaville, open five days a week.
Wait staff will be equipped with tablet computers, meaning that drink and food orders will be quickly filled.
"You won't have to wait more than a few minutes for a refill," said Johnson.
Meanwhile, longtime and well-known Vacaville entertainers Bob Green and Ron George took in the view from the balcony.
"This could possibly turn Vacaville into a destination," said Green. "I can't wait to play here."
Standing on the dance floor, City Councilwoman Dilenna Harris offered an appraisal of the theater's sparkling interior.
"It's a beautiful jewel," she said.
She was unsure of the theater's eventual impact, which time will reveal, but called it "a very unique entertainment venue. The only other one close is in Napa (the Uptown)."
Harris said the city, especially the downtown, needed "something like this."
Standing on Main Street, waiting to enter the theater, former City Councilman and Reporter columnist Ernest Kimme noted talk about revitalizing the downtown with an entertainment hub like the DeVille began 25 years ago when he sat on the city's governing body.
"It's certainly going to bring people downtown," he said. "I hear they're talking about bringing in some well-known (musical) groups. I'm encouraged."
Follow Staff Writer Richard Bammer at Twitter.com/REBammer.
THEATRE DEVILLE, A SNAPSHOT
What: Theatre DeVille, a single-screen movie theater transformed into a modern entertainment venue, can hold 620 people (maximum capacity, general admission). Formerly the Clark Theatre, which opened in 1926.
Where: 308 Main St., Vacaville
Estimated cost: $2 million-plus
Architect: RSA Architecture of Vacaville (Robert Sesar)
Owners: Jason Johnson and Royce Farris, DeVille Enterprises
Grand opening: Feb. 13 and Valentine's Day weekend
Pending entertainment lineup: TBA
Square footage: Nearly 10,000
Employees: 25 full and part-time
Executive chef: Joey Jaraba
Sound system: Meyer Sound Laboratories Inc. of Berkeley
Number of kitchens: Two
Number of bars: 5 1/2
Number of restrooms: Four
Telephone: (707) 455-7455