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Fox Tucson Theatre

Fox Tucson Theatre

Architect: M. Eugene Durfee

First Opened: 11th April 1930 (90 years ago)

Reopened: 31st December 2005

Website: foxtucson.com Open website in new window

Telephone: (520) 547-3040 Call (520) 547-3040

Address: 17 West Congress Street, Tucson, AZ 85701 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

The Fox Tucson Theatre opened in early 1930 as a dual vaudeville/movie house, featuring a $20,000 Wurlitzer theatre organ and a stage large enough to present vaudeville acts. The theatre closed in 1974 and lay dormant for many years before a restoration project commenced in the late 1990s. The Fox is now a flourishing performing arts center in the heart of the downtown Tucson.

Featured Photos

Detailed Information

Theatre Entrance in 1956
Theatre Entrance in 1956

Planned in mid-1929 as the Tower Theatre, the builders – Diamos Brothers’ Lyric Amusement chain – were approached by Fox West Coast Theatres in late 1929 and pressured into leasing the theatre to Fox given the alleged threat that Fox would build a larger theatre opposite if the Diamos Brothers didn’t comply. Agreements were reached and construction continued with the theatre opening as the Fox Tucson Theatre on 11th April 1930.

The theatre was designed by architect Eugene Durfee, known for several buildings in the Southern California cities of Anaheim, Fullerton, and Santa Ana. Durfee provided initial designs for the Fox Fullerton Theatre, however it would ultimately be designed by architects Meyer & Holler.

While the majority of Durfee’s designs were built in Los Angeles and Orange counties, Durfee relocated to Tucson Arizona for a few months in 1921 and it’s possible that connection brought him the commission for the Fox theatre there some years later.

The layout of the theatre is L-shaped, with the audience entrance approaching from the south on West Congress Street and the theatre running East-West with its backstage adjoining North Church Avenue.

Interior decoration was by Robert E. Powers Studios of Los Angeles, and according to its National Register of Historic Places listing the theatre is the only known example of a Southwestern Art Deco, or “Pueblo Deco”, movie palace.

Auditorium Ceiling, by Robert E. Power Studios
Auditorium Ceiling, by Robert E. Power Studios

The theatre opened during the Great Depression and its budget increased during building from $200,000 to $300,000. For these reasons, at the time of building the dressing room areas in the theatre’s basement were not completed to save costs.

Originally intended to seat 1,300, the current seating capacity is 1,164 with the main floor of the auditorium seating around 800 and approximately 350 in the balcony.

The theatre originally featured a gold plush rhinestone curtain as the grand drape, with a “silver dream cloth” as the title curtain.

The interior of the auditorium was finished with Acoustone, a product of Acoustone Co. Ltd. of Los Angeles, and the theatre featured prominently in the company’s advertisements. To the un-trained eye the walls of the theatre may look like a concrete box however the 1930s-era Acoustone treatment has been praised over the years for its acoustic response in deadening the room for live performances.

Opening night was 11th April 1930 and – aside from street closures to facilitate celebrations – featured newsreels, cartoons, and the presentation feature “Chasing Rainbows” Link opens in new window.

Starting in the 1930 the theatre hosted the Mickey Mouse Club, and although the national organization was disbanded in 1933 the club continued in Tucson. Open to children of all races (unusual for the time given the Fox policy of permitting African Americans into only the rear of the balcony), the club was popular and persisted into the 1950s.

In 1956 the theatre was remodeled however details and photographs from this period have proved elusive.

The restored theatre in 2019
The restored theatre in 2019

In 1974 the theatre closed due to the general decline in popularity of downtown and competition from newer movie theatre multiplexes in the suburbs.

In 1997 negotiations commenced on purchasing the theatre, and in 1999 the Fox was purchased for $250,000 by the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation. Having sat dormant for 25 years the theatre had suffered extensive water damage and vandalism, and was home to over 40 homeless people.

Historic Theatre Consultants Link opens in new window led the restoration project which kicked-off in earnest in 1999, and in 2005 the $14 million restoration project culminated in the Fox Tucson Theatre reopening on 31st December 2005.

The current marquee, a replica of the original which was removed in 1940, was installed in 2002. The original “FOX” vertical sign collapsed upon removal in 1985. In 2002 a new vertical sign, fabricated by Fluoresco Lighting and Signs Link opens in new window, was re-lit on Saturday 29th June 2002.

Movie, TV & Music Video Appearances

Movies

Video from our YouTube channel:

Listed/Landmark Building Status

How do I visit the Fox Tucson Theatre?

Tours take place every second Tuesday of the month at noon from September through May and last about an hour. The tour is free but donations are happily accepted. For further information check out the Tours page on the theatre’s website Link opens in new window.

Private tours for large groups can be scheduled by contacting Tamara Mack (House Manager) at (520) 547-8604 Link opens in new window.


Upcoming Special Events
Ghost Tours

Ghost Tours (30th October 2020, 8pm)

Every Friday in October, The Fox is excited to have the Tucson Ghost Society take 10 curious (and brave) souls on a safe and educational tour of The Fox that includes a preternatural investigation using state of the art equipment exclusive to the paranormal industry.

Stories about a male panhandler who walks the street outside of the theatre but disappears when someone hands him change…lights that flash on and off when no one is around and the sighting of what appears to be a young girl in old fashioned dress roaming the inside theatre have given The Fox a well-deserved reputation as a place to experience ghostly adventures.

This team has previously captured an apparition on video and has recorded six different electronic voice phenomenons, including footage from the lobby of an orb that drifts out of the wall, rises up into the middle of the room, and moves to the back as it becomes a figure. Since the theatre has been silent with only the Ghost Light shining, we feel sure The Fox ghosts will be glad to have the living back among them.

Tours run twice nightly at 8pm and 11pm each Friday in October. Tickets $25 (11pm $35). Covid-19 protocols are in place for this limited capacity event.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window




Ghost Tours

Ghost Tours (30th October 2020, 11pm)

Every Friday in October, The Fox is excited to have the Tucson Ghost Society take 10 curious (and brave) souls on a safe and educational tour of The Fox that includes a preternatural investigation using state of the art equipment exclusive to the paranormal industry.

Stories about a male panhandler who walks the street outside of the theatre but disappears when someone hands him change…lights that flash on and off when no one is around and the sighting of what appears to be a young girl in old fashioned dress roaming the inside theatre have given The Fox a well-deserved reputation as a place to experience ghostly adventures.

This team has previously captured an apparition on video and has recorded six different electronic voice phenomenons, including footage from the lobby of an orb that drifts out of the wall, rises up into the middle of the room, and moves to the back as it becomes a figure. Since the theatre has been silent with only the Ghost Light shining, we feel sure The Fox ghosts will be glad to have the living back among them.

Tours run twice nightly at 8pm and 11pm each Friday in October. Tickets $25 (11pm $35). Covid-19 protocols are in place for this limited capacity event.

Click here to go to the event website. Link opens in new window

Further Reading

Online

Books

Technical Information

Flying System
Batten Length
52ft 6in (16m)
Grid Height
50ft (15.2m)
Linsets
20, most of which are loaded with pieces as part of the house hanging plot.
System Type
Hoffend Vortek automated rigging system control located stage right.
Movie Projection
Digital
Barco DP2000 2K projector
Film
Dual 35mm projectors
Stage Dimensions
Apron Depth
5ft 5in at center line (1.6m)
Bottom of Grand Border
22ft 6in (6.9m) This is dead hung and is the effective Proscenium height.
Proscenium Height
27ft 4in (8.3m)
Proscenium Width
39ft 9in (12.1m)
Stage Depth
22ft 4in (6.8m)
Stage Height above Main Floor
3ft 5in (1m)
Stage Left Wing
17ft (5.2m)
Stage Right Wing
15ft (4.6m)
Stage Width
71ft 8in (21.8m)
Historic Photos & Documents

Files displayed in this section may be subject to copyright; refer to our Copyright Fair Use Statement regarding our use of copyrighted media.

Photos of the Fox Tucson Theatre

Jump to Photo Section:

  1. Auditorium: Orchestra
  2. Auditorium: Balcony
  3. Auditorium: Closeups
  4. Lobbies
  5. Lounges
  6. Exterior
  7. Stage
  8. Basement
  9. Fly Floor & Grid
  10. Projection Booth
  11. Organ Chambers
  12. Attic
Auditorium: Orchestra

The organ grilles flanking the proscenium were purportedly designed to resemble futuristic monolithic skyscrapers. The main floor level now seats around 800, features a media cockpit under the balcony overhang, and includes handicap spaces on both sides.

Auditorium: Balcony

The balcony was originally split into higher-priced seats in the loge area in front of the balcony cross-aisle, with the area behind the cross-aisle being cheaper seats. The balcony now seats around 300 people.

Auditorium: Closeups

The theatre was listed on the National Register for being perhaps the only existing theatre to exhibit the Southwestern Art Deco style. Here we present multiple closeups of that interior decoration, first executed by Robert E. Powers Studios of Los Angeles and later restored as part of the six-year restoration project overseen by Historic Theatre Consultants Link opens in new window.

Lobbies

The entrance lobby affords access to restrooms, concessions stand, stairs to both the balcony and basement lounges, and the promenade which facilitates entrances to the auditorium at main floor level.

The central feature of the promenade is an Art Deco water fountain finished in metal and resembling plant leaves. The water fountain was preserved as part of the 1990s renovation project.

Lounges

The basement and balcony lounges have been altered over the years and as such their current appearance aligns with their period of rehabilitation.

The Basement Lounge still features its Art Deco fireplace.

Exterior

Replicas of the original marquee and vertical sign were installed in the early 2000’s. Backstage loading access is from North Church Avenue, to the west and north of the main entrance.

Stage

The stage is almost 72ft wide yet only 22ft deep: a typical shallow design employed by theatres which were designed for combination vaudeville/movie houses.

Basement

The basement area under the stage houses dressing rooms and a Green Room for both principals and chorus.

There is a kitchen at Stage Left and a basic Green Room at Stage Right. The Orchestra Pit and Organ Console Storage Room are also accessible at this level.

Fly Floor & Grid

The Fly Floor and Grid were completely refitted as part of the redevelopment project completed in 2005. The 50ft (15.2m) grid was considered to be too low for installing a counterweight system, along with concerns of taking up valuable wing space, so a Hoffend Vortek automated rigging system was installed with controls located at floor level Stage Right. The Fly Floor at Stage Left has a Pin Rail for temporary rigging requirements.

Projection Booth

The Projection Booth features dual 35mm film projectors fitted with Strong Highlight 11A lamphouses, a Digital Cinema Projector (Barco DP2000 2K), and dual Lycian 1275 Super Star 1.2kW followspots.

Organ Chambers

Photos here show only the Stage Left (House Right) Organ Chamber, which was undergoing construction at the time of shooting as part of the project to reintroduce a theatre organ to the Fox Tucson Theatre.

Attic

The theatre’s HVAC system, thermal insulation, and attic layout were revamped as part of the 1999-2005 restoration project. As a result there is now a catwalk leading from the Projection Booth to the Proscenium wall of the theatre.

A slot for theatrical lighting was opened-up in the ceiling and is accessible from the catwalk.



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