The Fox Tucson Theatre opened on April 11, 1930 as a dual vaudeville/movie house. The Fox featured a stage, full fly-loft, and dressing rooms beneath the stage. The combined effects of “talkies” and the Depression limited the opportunities for live performance, and the dressing rooms were never completed.
Opening night, April 11, 1930, proved to be the biggest party the small community of Tucson had ever seen. With Congress Street closed and waxed for dancing, four live bands, a live radio broadcast and free trolley rides downtown, the party was one not to be missed. So began Fox’s 40 year reign as the “crown jewel” of downtown Tucson’s entertainment world. Originally, the Fox served as Tucson’s Movie Palace, presenting films on the big screen in addition to community events, vaudeville performances and the Tucson Chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Competition for new theaters and the decline of downtown shopping led to the Fox closing in 1974. After sitting empty for 25 years, the theater was nearly beyond restoration. Extensive water damage, vandalism, and neglect had conspired to keep the building dark. The owners, who had decided to let the building slowly decay, had little interest in selling the property to anyone. Following a two-year negotiation the non-profit Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation was able to purchase the building in 1999 for $250,000.
Stabilization and planning for the rehabilitation/restoration began at once with a new roof being installed to stop further damage from the elements. Small restoration projects such as the repair and relighting of the original chandeliers kept the community engaged—through bi-annual open houses and special event fund-raisers.
Following a six year, $14 million rehabilitation the theatre reopened on New Year’s Eve 2006 (12/3/05). The building is listed as on the National Register of Historic Places due to its unique “Southwestern Art Deco” decor as well as it world class acoustics. The impact of the reopened of the Fox Tucson Theatre on downtown, the larger community of Tucson, and on Southern Arizona as a whole, has been profound.
In 2013, the Fox hosted over 150 events and saw over 70,000 patrons through its door. The 1164 seat audience capacity is big enough to attract national and international talent, yet small enough to boast an intimate entertainent experience. Once again the Fox is a premier performance venue, a classic film buff’s dream (showing classic 35mm films on the big screen “the way they were meant to be seen”), and a multi-purpose, elegant rental facility for corporate, non-profit and private events.