PITTSBURG -- During its first 34 years of existence, the California Theatre was this blue-collar city's epicenter for vaudeville acts and silent films.

And after a few successful opening acts, the refurbished beaux-arts-style theater on Railroad Avenue is set to command more of the Old Town Pittsburg spotlight.

A monthly comedy series kicks off Saturday night with well-known funnyman Dennis Regan headlining the event. Meanwhile, a monthly movie series kicks off the following Friday night with a showing of The Sandlot, which will include appearances by players from Pittsburg's new minor league baseball team, the Mettle. Tickets are $5.

"We're really ramping up the number of events we have in our second season," said Crystal Watts, the theater's manager.

Dennis Regan. (Courtesy of the Firehouse Arts Theater)
Dennis Regan. (Courtesy of the Firehouse Arts Theater)

PITTSBURG -- During its first 34 years of existence, the California Theatre was this blue-collar city's epicenter for vaudeville acts and silent films.

And after a few successful opening acts, the refurbished beaux-arts-style theater on Railroad Avenue is set to command more of the Old Town Pittsburg spotlight.

A monthly comedy series kicks off Saturday night with well-known funnyman Dennis Regan headlining the event. Meanwhile, a monthly movie series kicks off the following Friday night with a showing of The Sandlot, which will include appearances by players from Pittsburg's new minor league baseball team, the Mettle. Tickets are $5.

"We're really ramping up the number of events we have in our second season," said Crystal Watts, the theater's manager.


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Other upcoming events include the ongoing Pittsburg Pops concert, performances by local community theater groups and the second year of the Vet Jam in early November.

"We don't have a Saturday free for the next couple months," Watts said.

Live shows at the California Theatre ended in 1954, and the city purchased the building in 1970. But over the years, the building fell into disrepair and sustained heavy water damage from leaks in the roof. Renovation, seismic safety and cosmetic interior work finally began on the $7.6 million project in May 2010, which was financed by redevelopment funds.

The addition of a box office, dressing rooms and a sound board this past year have enhanced the experience, Watts said.

The venue is ideal for comedy because of its intimate feel, said Rhonda Hicks, a promoter with Benicia-based Red Dragonfly Productions.

The shows she is bringing to the California Theatre the next few months are clean comics, in that they joke about adult topics but without the profanity and crass style that turn away some from shows.

"There's a pent-up desire for comedy that isn't vulgar or base," Hicks said. "There's an art to it."

Hicks, who promotes acts that are conducive to performing in theaters locally, including the Empress in Vallejo, El Campanil in Antioch and Firehouse in Pleasanton, says she had been asked on several occasions to give Pittsburg a whirl.

"The hope is that it is ongoing here, but audiences tell you if that's what they want to see," Hicks said.

Pittsburg is cross-promoting some of its events with dinner deals at local restaurants.

"That's part of our goal; to bring business to Old Town," Watts said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

IF YOU GO
What: Comedy at the California Theatre, including Dennis Regan
When: 8 p.m. Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Where: California Theatre, 351 Railroad Ave.
Cost: $17 in advance; $20 at the door
More information: Call 925-428-1611 or visit PittsburgCaliforniaTheatre.com