By Mike De Felice
Kitsap News Group
PORT ORCHARD – The New Year’s Eve concert by Heart by Heart featuring members of the legendary band Heart at Bremerton’s Historic Roxy Theatre is viewed as the next step in the comeback of the refurbished venue.
The music event also moves the Quincy Square project – an effort to turn downtown Bremerton’s Fourth Street into an entertainment mecca – one step closer to reality.
The 500-seat theater, built in 1941 and refurbished in recent years, is equipped to show first-run and independent movies, and showcase live performances similar to the New Year’s Eve rock blowout. In its heyday, the Roxy headlined Bing Crosby and “Chairman of the Board” Frank Sinatra as on-stage performers. The theater thrived from the ’40s through the ’70s until it was later shuttered due to the growth of multiplex movie houses in the area.
In 2015, the then-dilapidated theater got a reprieve when it was purchased by Sound West Group (SWG), a group of local investors that sought to bring the Roxy back to life.
SWG reportedly put up $750,000 to begin restoration efforts, which included refitting the nostalgic marquee out front with neon lights and purchasing a state-of-the-art projector and screen. The company also reinstalled the theater’s original front lobby chandelier, which had been found residing on a farm in Silverdale.
Still in the theater is Asahel Curtis’ 35-foot panoramic photo depicting the Great White Fleet of 1908 and the Bremerton Navy Yard.
During the restoration of the old movie house, the nonprofit Roxy Bremerton Foundation was formed. The group was interested in leasing and operating the theater, and eventually purchasing the building. The foundation started with $2.22 in its bank account, foundation president Steve Sego said.
Sego has had a hand in several projects aimed at upgrading commercial enterprises around Kitsap County. Most recently, he and his wife Coreen Haydock were part of a group that recently purchased another historic theater — this one in Port Orchard — which has been renamed the Historic Polaris Theatre and is now being refurbished.
Once the Roxy Bremerton Foundation was created, the group began seeking grants and contributions to continue the Roxy’s restoration, Sego said.
The foundation upgraded the seats and replaced the 1940’s heat pump “swamp cooler” with an air conditioning system. Broadway-quality stage lighting and sound systems were purchased for live performances. Overall, the foundation has raised approximately $1 million and is now poised to purchase the Roxy from SWG by the middle of next year, he said.
Once the foundation purchases the theater, the group plans to continue booking live entertainment, including nationally recognized bands. Movies also will continue to be shown, Sego said.
The Quincy Square project
The art-deco Roxy Theatre, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, is considered the main stage of the developing Quincy Square.
The ambitious Quincy Square project was borne out of efforts by local businesses and community leaders, including Sego, intent on revitalizing the downtown area. The project aims to convert Fourth Street into a showcase for live music clubs, cultural arts, restaurants and hotels, Sego said.
Quincy Square will feature a giant keyboard design embedded into the sidewalk along Fourth Street. The black-and-white piano keys will be large enough to be seen from space, Sego said. Fourth Street will also be reconfigured so it can be closed during major events, he said.
“The idea is to make Quincy Square a cultural, musical and artistic hub. It will be a community asset,” he said.
Quincy Square’s namesake
Quincy Square was named in honor of Grammy Award-winning and legendary musician, arranger and producer Quincy Jones, Sego explained. Jones, who has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson, lived in Bremerton for a portion of his youth. His father brought the family to Kitsap County to find work at the shipyard.
During an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” Jones explained how he was introduced to the world of music during his time in Bremerton.
At age 11, he and some buddies broke into the local National Guard Armory because they heard there were lemon meringue pies and ice cream inside. After eating the pies and getting into a food fight with them, the young Jones walked into an office and saw a piano for the first time.
Upon touching the instrument, Jones told Colbert: “Every cell in my body said this is what you’re going to do the rest of your life.”
And the rest is music history. The 88-year-old legend went on to earn 80 Grammy Award nominations and 28 Grammys. It was a no-brainer for Quincy Square planners to name the area after the music legend.
A sparkling future
Should the Historic Roxy Theatre continue to increase entertainment offerings in Kitsap — everything from first-run movies to headline bands and other live performances — and Quincy Square attracts lively new businesses, Fourth Street seems destined for greatness.
Future New Year’s Eve celebrations at Quincy Square, Sego predicts, will feature a block-long street party set in the middle of new live-music clubs, restaurants, and even an outdoor music stage — think New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street and New York’s Times Square.