Thursday, February 18, 2010

One More Fox

When we found this marquee announcing offerings at the Fox Theatre in Tucson--the fifth Fox Theatre we've seen on our travels--we began to wonder if any other company had owned theatres in the late 1920s.

In response to this observation we shared with our tour leader, I was told, "Fox owned a lot of theatres; this was Number 510 of 1800 Fox Theatres."

This member of the Fox family of theatres began as the Tower Theatre on August 24, 1929. The theatre was to be the crown jewel in the Diamos Brothers’ Lyric Amusement chain of theaters throughout Southern Arizona. However, the Fox West Coast Theatre chain bought the theatre before it opened in April of 1930.

This entryway just behind the ticket booth appears very much like it did when the theater opened.

There were 1300 seats in the theatre when it opened. One hundred twenty-eight of these seats are the first few rows of the balcony (shown in this picture). Even today, when the doors open, the audience charges for these seats.

Perhaps the reason for their high status among the 1200 seats available today, is their form. Called divans or love seats, these seats offer something unique in theatre seating.

Also unique to this beautiful movie palace is its blend of Southwestern, Art Deco, Mayan, Egyptian, and Native American inspired decorations. All of these styles have been grouped under “Spanish Modernistic” or a style now known as Southwestern Art Deco. The Fox Tucson Theatre is the only known example of this style.

When the Fox closed in 1974 due to competition from TV, multiplexes, and drive-ins, the theater fell into disrepair.

At one point over 40 homeless people took up residence in the theatre. The number was significant enough that they could form their own government.

In 1997, a foundation was formed that saved the theatre from demolition; three years later it had raised enough money to purchase the Fox. Following a six year, $13 million rehabilitation the theatre reopened on December 31, 2005.

The Fox is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Nationally Significant Structure due to its unique decor and special acoustical treatment (“Acoustone”). This substance was designed in conjunction with the advent of "Talkie" movies, and is the only known example of the material in existence. (This treatment was only installed in two theatres in the United States before the company that sold it went bankrupt.)

One interesting aspect of the rehabilitation addressed the woodwork around the ceiling.

It seems that one person was in charge of repairing and replacing each of the cream-color panels. Well, this person inverted one of the panels. If you look just above the gold semi-circle (or double-click to enlarge the photo), you will notice that the chevrons point downward in this one panel. Though distraught over his error, he refused to rebuild the scaffolding to rotate this one panel.

The lobby's original terrazo floor was restored. The original carpet was replicated. Original chair fabric (below, with the same Art Deco pattern as the original chairs at Philadelphia's Boyd Theatre) was discovered by a volunteer in a balcony seat and was replicated.

In it heyday, the Fox presented movies, community events, vaudeville performances and the Tucson chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club. (Side panel of an aisle seat shown here.)

(Some metal artwork on a pillar in the lobby.) Today, the Fox presents performances of Dance, Theatre, Music and Film, children`s activities and community events as well as private corporate rentals.

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