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Fox Theater Bakersfield

Fox Theater Bakersfield

First Opened: 25th December 1930 (88 years ago)

Reopened: 1st July 1994

Status: Originally opened on Christmas Day in 1930.

Website: thebakersfieldfox.com Open website in new window

Telephone: (661) 324-1369 Call (661) 324-1369

Address: 2001 H Street, Bakersfield, CA 93301 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

Featured Photos

Overview

The Bakersfield Fox opened on Christmas Day in 1930 as an atmospheric theatre with a Mediterranean Village theme. Architect S. Charles Lee originally envisioned the theatre anchoring a major retail center with open arcades at street level, however ultimately plans were scaled-back. In 1953 the auditorium was given a Skouras-style makeover resulting in its current appearance.

The Fox Theater Buillding
The Fox Theater Building

Lee designed the building in Spanish Colonial Revival style with mission tiles on the roof and white stucco walls. The building features an eye-catching tower with Churrigueresque detailing around the lower windows, slender slot windows accentuating the height of the tower, “FOX” neon signage above, and large neon-lit clock faces at the top sitting just below a ornamental dome. The building was executed in poured concrete over steel, allowing it to withstand the 1952 Kern County earthquake (M7.3) that saw many other downtown Bakersfield buildings seriously damaged and subsequently demolished.

Sloping Ceiling of the Lobby
Sloping Ceiling of the Lobby

The lobby features dramatic sloping concrete beams, supporting the balcony, originally painted with stenciled geometric designs. An original 1930s followspot as used in the theatre has been made a feature in the upper lobby.

The original auditorium (1,500 seats) was an “atmospheric” design, intended to transport patrons to some far-distant land with painted mural walls and a starry sky overhead.

Original 1930s Atmospheric Auditorium
Original 1930s Atmospheric Auditorium

The Fox featured a Mediterranean / Spanish Colonial Revival Village theme, similar to The Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara. The proscenium was flanked either side by sets of three pillars mounted on large pedestal bases, supporting an ante-proscenium reminiscent of a Spanish Mission, and topped with a shallow sloping tiled roof. Large faux-buildings of differing designs featuring ornamental balconies sat on either side of the proscenium, with grilles giving them away as enclosing the organ chambers. The rest of the sidewalls featured asymmetrical simulated buildings and ornamental walls draped with ivy, behind which were murals of rural Spanish countryside scenes painted onto the sidewalls giving way to the sky above, complete with painted clouds and twinkling stars. The whole affair was lit with hidden cove lighting and allowed for differing moods to be created, such as sunset for warmth and more bluish colors to suggest coolness during the hot summers.

Brenkert F7 Master Brenograph
Brenkert F7 Master Brenograph

As was common with theatres of the time, the Fox had a Brenograph. These complex light projection machines, manufactured by the Brenkert Light Projection Company, were advertised as Projecting Everything but the Picture. They were most commonly used in atmospheric theatres to project moving clouds or other weather effects onto the “sky” auditorium ceiling. Brenographs were extremely versatile and could be used to project almost anything, from tableau scenes to song sheet sing-a-long words, animated effects, and enhancing the main feature presentation with color and/or surrounding projections. The Fox had the ultimate model, the F7 Master Brenograph, and as of 2019 it is still in the theatre. It is not operational but it is in exceedingly good shape and ready for renovation.

According to robertmorton.org Link opens in new window the Bakersfield Fox received a Robert Morton 2-manual, 16-rank organ. It is unknown when the organ was removed from the theatre.

The Skouras-style 1950s Auditorium
The Skouras-style 1950s Auditorium

In 1953, under the management of Fox West Coast Theatres, the Fox underwent a major remodel by Carl G. Moeller to give it a more modern theme, in common with what happened to much of the Fox West Coast Theatres chain at the time. Unlike most other theatres, this late 1940s / early 1950s treatment has not been partially or fully reversed over time, and the Fox retains its full Skouras-style treatment. The style is best described as Art Moderne meets Streamline, utilizing a mix of heavy Art Deco and light rococo forms of gilded ornamentation, with monumental ornament and heavy use of drapery.

Another aspect of the remodel saw a 45ft wide, 20ft tall CinemaScope screen added, accommodated by hacking-out the ornamental plasterwork sides of the original proscenium arch. Film projectors were also upgraded. Front-of-House areas were updated as part of the modernization with a large concessions area being added. On the outside of the building a new marquee and Skouras-style box office were added on top of brightly-colored terrazzo. The theatre reopened May 1st, 1953.

Hidden 1930 Wall Mural
Hidden 1930 Wall Mural

Behind some of the auditorium’s drapes there are remnants of Lee’s original theatre design including columns at either side of the proscenium, organ grilles, and plasterwork medallions. Parts of the original sidewall murals and hidden cove lighting scheme also survive.

In 1977 the Fox was closed and sat dormant for many years save for some brief activity in 1983-84. In 1994 the nonprofit Fox Theater Foundation was formed and their “Save the Fox” campaign saved the theatre from demolition thanks to generous donations from over 380 supporters.

The Fox is now a busy live events center which hosts a variety of events ranging from movies to ballet, community events and contemporary pop and rock acts. Select artists who have appeared at the Fox over the years include B.B. King, Cyndi Lauper, Bernie Mac, Tony Bennett, Jamie Foxx, Huey Lewis and the News, the Moscow Russian Ballet, Tom Jones, George Lopez, Johnny Cash, Vince Vaughn, Olivia Newton-John, Bryan Adams, The Monkees, The B52’s, Ice Cube, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Music Videos

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Listed/Landmark Building Status

How do I visit the Fox Theater Bakersfield?

The Bakersfield Fox doesn’t currently offer tours so check out the theatre’s events calendar Link opens in new window for upcoming events.

Further Reading

Online

Books

Technical Information

Flying System
System Type Single Purchase Counterweight operated Stage Right at Stage level
Grid Height 60ft
Linsets 30 @ 4-line Linesets
Lighting
Followspots 4 @ Lycian Super Star 2.5 (2,500W HMI/MSR)
Movie Projection
Projector Christie DCP System
Stage Dimensions
Proscenium Height 27ft
Proscenium Width 48ft
Stage Depth 27ft
Historic Photos & Documents

Historic files shown here may be subject to copyright; review our “Fair Use” statement here.

Photos of the Fox Theater Bakersfield

Jump to Photo Section:

  1. Auditoirum: Orchestra
  2. Auditorium: Balcony
  3. Auditorium: From Stage
  4. Auditorium: Original Decor
  5. Lobby and Public Areas
  6. Other Public Areas
  7. Exterior
  8. Backstage
  9. Dressing Rooms
  10. Projection Booth
  11. Clock Tower
Auditoirum: Orchestra

The atmospheric-style auditorium, opened in 1930 and designed by S. Charles Lee, received a complete makeover in 1953 in Skouras-style, best described as Art Moderne meets Streamline. The Fox Bakersfield Theater is one of the few remaining comprehensive examples of this style.

Auditorium: Balcony

The atmospheric-style auditorium, opened in 1930 and designed by S. Charles Lee, received a complete makeover in 1953 in Skouras-style, best described as Art Moderne meets Streamline. The Fox Bakersfield Theater is one of the few remaining comprehensive examples of this style.

Auditorium: From Stage
Auditorium: Original Decor

A few remnants of the 1930 atmospheric-style auditorium still remain. A medallion on the House Left organ chamber is still visible behind the gold drapery (see the Historic Photos section, above, for original photos), as is one of originally three pilasters upon its classical base and with capital at its top, on the House Right side.

Original side wall murals are still visible at Balcony level, hidden behind the 1950s plasterwork.

Lobby and Public Areas

The lobby is reasonably similar to its original 1930 design although stenciling on the ceiling has been repainted and stenciling on the diagonal concrete beams has been lost.

In the major 1953 makeover a large concessions stand was added. Original 1930 single seats with the word FOX are dotted around the lobby, and an original 1930 spot light from the theatre is a feature item on the Lobby Mezzanine.

Other Public Areas
Exterior

Architect S. Charles Lee originally envisioned the theatre anchoring a major retail center with open arcades at street level, however ultimately plans were scaled-back. The Spanish Colonial Revival style, with mission tiles on the roof and white stucco walls, was mostly retained during the 1953 the Skouras-style makeover which included installation of the current neon marquee.

Backstage

The 60ft high stagehouse retains much of its original counterweight installation by Armstrong Studios Inc.

The original switchboard is also still in place.

Dressing Rooms
Projection Booth

The Fox Bakersfield Theater has retained its Brenkert F7 Master Brenograph, which would have originally been used to project moving effects and slides into the auditorium and onto the screen. As of 2019 the Brenograph is still in the theatre and is in exceedingly good shape and ready for renovation.<

Clock Tower

The Clock Tower at Balcony level was originally the furnace (heating) room for the theatre, with a huge fan pulling-in fresh air and gas burners heating the air before it was distributed around the auditorium. After the Fox Theater Foundation took on the theatre in 1994, the room was transformed into a new home for the renovated clock mechanism and mini-museum.



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