History | Fox Tucson Theatre

History

Opening

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 not-to-be-missed. So began the Fox Tucson’s 40-year reign as the “crown jewel” of downtown Tucson’s entertainment world. Over the years the theatre served as Tucson’s most revered “Classic Movie Palace,” while also occasionally hosting community events, vaudeville performances and more. In the 1950s The Fox was particularly renowned as the venue for Saturday morning screenings put on by the Tucson Chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club!

Competition from new theaters and the decline of downtown shopping led to the theatre’s closing in 1974.

Dual image of historic Fox marquee's -- open and closed

Restoration

After sitting empty for 25 years, the theater was nearly beyond restoration. Extensive water damage, vandalism, and neglect had conspired to make the theatre a mere shadow of its former self. In the late 1990s, however, following a two-year negotiation process, 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—as well as occasional open houses and special event fundraisers, kept the community engaged and hopeful that the theatre might actually be restored to its original glory.

Standing Audience at Fox

Rehabilitation

Following a six-year, $14+ million rehabilitation, led by its tireless Executive Director, Herb Stratford, along with many dedicated volunteers, the theatre reopened on New Year’s Eve 2006 (12/31/05). The Foundation was finally able to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its unique “Southwestern Art Deco” decor as well as its world-class acoustics. The impact of the re-opened historic theatre on downtown, the larger community of Tucson, and on Southern Arizona as a whole, has been profound.

The Fox hosts approximately 150-160 events each year and sees over 75,000 patrons through its doors. The 1164 seat audience capacity is big enough to attract national and international talent, yet small enough to boast an intimate entertainment experience. Once again the Fox is a premier live performance venue, a classic film buff’s dream (showing classic 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.

Our Mission Statement

We make memories. We make connections. We make Tucson proud.

MISSION
We enliven Tucson, fostering community growth and connections by shaping exceptional, live arts experiences in a celebrated setting.

VISION
Our vision is to serve as a leader and collaborative partner in a thriving Tucson cultural landscape.

Central to our purpose is the ongoing enjoyment and continued vitality of a cherished and historically significant venue. Our success rests in how the theatre and its programs embody and facilitate a positive sense of place and connectedness, holding cherished memories and creating transformational new arts experiences for Tucsonans of all ages and backgrounds.

VALUES
Togetherness & Community · We believe the arts provide space for joyful celebration and the expression of our humanity; and that gathering together in shared experience is an essential function of our interdependence as members of a community.

Growth · We believe in continuous improvement, in challenging ourselves to grow and change; and in a learning orientation toward the achievement of institutional, individual, and community goals.

Partnership · We believe in collaboration, cooperation, and working together with a range of partners toward common aims.

Respect & Inclusion · We believe in treating all people with dignity and respect; and that inclusion of a diversity of people, ideas, perspectives, and cultures in all aspects of our organization is both an honor and a responsibility, which deepens our work and expands our impact.

Quality & Craftsmanship · We believe in artful practice, fine craftsmanship, taking care in our work, and pursuing excellence through the continued, rigorous application of skills.

Sustainable Legacy · We believe in the long-term and in the power of an examined history to fuel present actions that will shape a sustainable, evolving, and positive legacy.

Download or view our most recent Annual Report here.