Fox Theatre

1350 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Showing 26 - 50 of 160 comments

jeremybondsf on June 16, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks to all of you. I stumbled across this site this morning and have been enlightened, delighted, and even moved to tears by your heartfelt reminiscences. This grand lady was born, lived, and died before I was even a gleam in my daddy’s eye, but I somehow feel connected to this beautiful theatre and those of you who rekindle and celebrate its memory.

Swain on March 23, 2010 at 11:49 pm


I took persons that seemed to be appropriate from other photos that I didn’t use. I placed them in places where they might enhance the picture. PhotoShop was used to do this and to color them.

I am still working on a couple more photos that will be published later this year.

Bill Swain

Ziggy on February 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Mr. Swain,

I noticed that, in a couple of the photos, there are people posing in the colorized versions that aren’t there in the black and white photos. How did you do that?

tplassman on February 12, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Mr. Swain
Your pictures are truly amazing. Incredible work!

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on February 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

Mr. Swain…
If you have been unable to find any customers for the Fox artifacts, you might consider donating them to JOSEPH MUSIL’s non-profit AMERICAN MUSEUM OF THEATRICAL DESIGN in Santa Ana. 714-667-6959 207 N. Broadway, in the 1925 Santora Arts Building.

I donated some SF Fox items to Joe of which we created a lovely window display with my Cherub (from above the original candy counter) basking in a full spotlight!
Thank you. Simon Overton in Oregon.

Swain on December 7, 2009 at 10:58 pm

Richard Apple has kindly added some more of my pictures of the S.F. Fox, as it looked in 1929. It has been a labor of love to work on the original black and white negatives that were loaned to me. I hope anyone interested in the long lost Fox will enjoy looking at them. I am still working on two more that will be finished next year.

View link

Bill Swain San Francisco, December, 2009

BobJaeger on November 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm

Is anyone familiar with a series of high-style Art Deco bas relief plaster panels that were in the Fox? Evidently a set of these panels was purchased by Phil Lehr, a local restauranteur, in 1963 before the theater was demolished. The one I have depicts an Apollo-like figure playing the lyre, accompanied by a female figure with stylized hair, and a young boy, all in a tropical-cum-Deco setting. Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Bob Jaeger

kencmcintyre on May 15, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Here is a drawing by Thomas Lamb, as seen in Ben Hall’s book “The Best Remaining Seats”:

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on April 15, 2009 at 8:56 am

The Fox marquee still looked spectacular in 1962:

View link

View link

kencmcintyre on January 29, 2009 at 7:26 pm

This is from Boxoffice magazine in October 1961:

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.-The huge Fox Theater here will be replaced whether or not the city purchases the 5,000-seat house. Eugene V. Klein, president of National Theaters & Television, which owns the Fox, said the new theater will have no more than 1,500 seats and will be equipped with a ground-level parking lot for patrons. Construction will start “practically immediately”.

JimC on March 22, 2008 at 3:21 pm

Several years ago I bought a 2CD set of George Wright on the SF Fox organ issued by BANDA records, which were originally recorded in Feb 1958 and mastered from ½ tapes that had been “recently re-discovered”. The audio quality on these is oustanding. I beleive they are still available in the BANDA catalog. About a month ago I found and bought a 2 disk (33rpm LP) set of the “Farewell To The Fox” concerts on e-bay. These were pressed by Fantasy Records in 1964. I don’t beleive these have ever been issued on CD. Both disks were in excellent shape. I have one of those direct-to-digital turntables so I made digital copies for myself to protect the originals. The LP’s were in such good shape that I decided not to use any additional noise reduction or EQ when digitizing them, other than the standard RIAA curve.

trainmaster on February 28, 2008 at 10:10 am

Dear Mr. Swain:

Those photos you did are fantastic!!!!

Also, I met you a couple of times. You won’t remember me because there were so many people in line.

In the San Francisco Bay area, there are 4 magnificant installations you did (you were still active with your company then):

First Presbyterian Church – Richmond CA 1965

First Presbyterian Church – Concord CA 1977-78 (I met you at that meeting when the church approved the renovation of the organ)

First Presbyterian Church – Lafayette-Orinda (???) magnificant sounding organ!

The Mormon Tabernacle in Oakland

First Presbyterian Church in Walnut Creek (1992) I again shook your hand and told you I really liked that organ better than the previous Cassavant-Feres which, unfortunatly, burned down with the building.

I am very happy with your interst in both theaters and of your magnificant organs. I am a professional organist myself, holding a Master’s Degree in organ.

My passions are (1) trains, (2) organs) (3) theaters….hence my name “Trainmaster.

I assume you are interested in the latter two – I’d love to communicate with you via e-mail. Just send a message to me

Warren – I will write you privately since you gave your e-mail address. I DO appreciate very much your comments and information!

I also enjoy haering from the rest of you on theater topics.

And, thanks to you, Mr. Apple, for responding. Yes, I did meet your father a couple times as well at the Paramount. A fantastic gentleman! I can only imageine (from up above he is looking down) he is very pleased that the Paramount now has a 4/33 rank WurliTzer instead of that Rodgers and that the S.F. Fox organ he loved so very much is playing again for the public at the El Captain. Too bad they couldn’t bring it up to Oakland and install it in the Fox for their October 2008 debut! That organ WAS from the Bay Area, and really belongs there! However, it is still great to be able to see and hear it again. A celeste rank was added to make it a 4/37. Kudos to the Disney Company to restoring the appearance of the organ to comply with the original appearance. George Wright and Everett Nourse would have been pleased.

Has anyone heard of the possibility of the “Farewell To The Fox” records being available on CD? I know the Gothic label (which specializes in classical recordings) has the rights and is re-issuing the George Wright theater organ recordings. How odd for a label like Gothic, but with their top-notch quality, how fortunte!
I was shocked when I received the Gothic Catalog and saw the George Wright CD’s available.

Kindest Regards to all. Please excuse my spelling errors – I can’t see that well and this print is SO small!! Guess I am getting old (aren’t we all?)

Old organists never die – they just lose their wind!


Swain on February 27, 2008 at 6:20 pm

Richard Apple most likely was not aware that I was the owner of Swain & Kates, Inc. I undoubtedly forgot to mention it to him. About 10 years ago, after almost 45 years, I turned the company over to my loyal employees, and they have continued it on in great fashion. I am proud of them and the quality of their church pipe organ work here in northern California.

For those of you who have been interested in my restoration and coloring of original 1929 photos of the Fox, I am preparing a new CD for Dick to add to his excellent web site.

Bill Swain

rapple on February 27, 2008 at 5:17 pm

In response to trainmaster’s post of Feb 22:

Thank you for the kind words about the Fox website and my father, Robert M. Apple. He truly loved the Fox, worked hard to save it, and eventually agonized over its loss – I don’t think he ever got over it.

That said, he also loved theatre organs – and when he discovered that the original pipe organ had been unceremoniously removed from his new assignment (in 1963, at the Oakland Paramount, as Managing Director), he first tried to find a way to get a new pipe organ; when that idea wouldn’t fly, the only thing he could come up with (somewhat apologetically, as I recall) was an electronic organ.

I think he was worried about the future of the Paramount, and all the other large houses that he had worked in since the Great Depression (the Oakland Paramount had been his first assignment about 1932, as doorman). He also sensed that awareness of the entertainment and architectural value of some of the large palaces was only slowly growing (through events he helped book, such as the George Wright and other organ concerts). He was hoping the Rodgers organ might do its part to preserve the Paramount. Luckily – for this and many other reasons – it has survived magnificently!

I wish he’d lived to see the Preservation Movement grow and take hold in future years (he died in 1965)– I’m just grateful for folks like the ones reading this blog, for keeping the preservation issue out there.

PS: Someone in the recent flurry of posts (what happened all of a sudden?) asked about which movies may have been booked at the Fox – I have posted all that info from Kauffman’s book in the “Playbill” section of the Fox website:

The only thing I left out were the weekly grosses (maybe sometime in the future?) I’m also considering posting some newspaper ads for some of the movies – my grandfather was on the Fox West Coast payroll as a “commercial artist” and did these ads between 1918 (for Paramount Publix), and 1966. He worked on the 8th or 9th floor in the rear of the Fox building (near the old screening room)… so famil attachment to the theatre runs deep (btw: if anyone is interested in some of the other theatres in San Francisco that pre-dated the Fox – such as the California on Market Street – I have some background information in the career/biography section of a web site devoted to my GRANDfather’s theatre career and artwork:
View link )

PPS: I don’t know if Bill Swain is the co-owner of Swain and Cates, but I’ve emailed him to find out.

Hope this helps the discussion!

paulsp2 on February 27, 2008 at 12:47 pm

There will always be differing opinions as to which theatres were the greatest, most opulent, etc and there is no doubt that the S.F. Fox will be included but for my money Lamb’s New York Capitol has to be the most beautiful picture palace of them all – I am judging this from photos only as I never actually visited the theatre. Like many others it was altered (wrecked) in the 60’s but in its original state it was less over the top than many later palaces and was a supreme example of Thomas Lamb’s classic style.
It’s worth remembering that another of the truly greats still exists and is fighting for its life – I refer to the Chicago Uptown, again arguably Rapp and Rapp’s finest effort and in it’s way as fabulous as the much lamented SF FOX.

trainmaster on February 27, 2008 at 10:03 am

To Warren:

Sir, you are the author of nine books?

Are they on theaters?

If so, I would like to know the titles, so I can search for them!
Maybe some are still in print, manybe not-but used copies do show up.

I certainly would appreciate any information you have on your titles.

I collect theater books.

I also assume you are a member of Theater Historical Society – I wonder if this is a way they could reprint sold-out copies of Marquees and Annuals? I could call them be wondered if you knew.

Yes, it is sad to say that due to these copyright laws, probably no more new pressings of the classic Kauffman book will be released.
That is sad for many, but good for those who have a copy that is very scarce and valuable.


BoxOfficeBill on February 27, 2008 at 8:13 am

Sorry— Radio City Music Hall in the early (and late, after the Fox’s demise) sixties (Pollyana, Absent-Minded Professor, Happiest Millionaire and many others that would take too much space to mention

BoxOfficeBill on February 27, 2008 at 8:09 am

Warren— As far as I know, the date of the change in copyright coverage began in 1979, and one of the leading lobbyists for it was the Disney Corporation. As you know, Disney’s Mickey Mouse made his debut in “Steamboat Willie” at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928, and the owner corporation began pushing for an extension of the copyright law several years before the little rodent’s fiftieth anniversary in order to protect its investment for years to come. When I published my own first book in ‘78, I needed to pay no royalties for quoted materials published more than fifty years earlier. For my second book (1982), I needed to pay hundreds of dollars for quoted materials published in the new twenty-year extension. For a book I published last year, I paid tens of thousands of dollars for such permissions.

The relevance of my comment to this pages on this site is to invoke the power of Disney’s movies to create change (for better or worse), and a question about whether the Fox ever booked Disney product the way NYC’s Roxy did in the fifties (Peter Pan, 1953), Lady and the Tramp, 1955) and Radio City Music Hall did early (Snow White, Bambi) and late (Mary Poppins and a host of other bookings in the early fifties). To me, as those large theaters turned to Disney, it seems that their horizons faced economic troubles.

trainmaster on February 27, 2008 at 12:55 am

To Mr. Richard J. Apple:

If I am correct, your father managed the Oakland Paramount after the demise of the Fox, correct?

I know he has passed away, but must be smiling above that, at least, they saved the Paramount! I think it was under Mr. Apple’s direction that a Rodgers Electronic Theater Organ was installed for a short time there. I remember hearing Larry Vannuchi or some name like that play there. That was around 1964. The event was put on by Leatherby Music Company, which had distribution rights for Rodgers at the time and they were next to the old ABC-owned KGO-TV and Radio on Golden Gate Avenue.

By the way, you site is magnificant! You speak of Bill Swain – is he the same person who is co-owner of the pipe organ firm Swain & Kates?


trainmaster on February 27, 2008 at 12:47 am


I owe you an apology – you are correct. The laws changed in 1978 before we dealt with it. You are a very knowledge person and must be a historian or attorney, but in any case, you are right! I am sure the owner I spoke of wished he did his copyright before January 1, 1978.

The law you speak of is U.S. Title 17, Chapter 3, Sub-Section 302.

Anyone who is willing to digest the copyright law information, which is up-to-date is welcome to….here is the website:

Anyone can horsewhip me if they have a horse!


trainmaster on February 27, 2008 at 12:39 am

One thing I forgot to add:

This is speculation, but I supppose the 25-year period of copyright protection requiring renewal is because the government wants their fees. It costs them so money to process the forms and put it in their database. You know whenever you deal with the Federal Government, there is always red tape!

The first time, you send a copy of whatever it is you want to protect. You have tons of forms to fill and the the initial fees to be paid. Renewal is much easier. Just fill out a simple form, they already have your work – if you revise it, you will have to copyright that portion, otherwise if it is the same, just pay your fee and you are good for the duration which is 25 years.

Been there – done that!


trainmaster on February 27, 2008 at 12:33 am

The copyright laws. A group of us put out an album and to deal with the copyright laws with attorneys specializing in that area, same ones which apply to books and movies. You get a copyright. It is good for 25 years – you have to renew it BEFORE it expires – even if one day lapeses after it expires, it is in the public domain and anyone can distribute it. Every 25 years, the copyright has to be renewed. I brought up the point that if one counts from 1979, Preston Kauffman’s copyright would be up for renewal (fees have to be paid and forms signed, nothing like the first time) in 2004 and I understand he passed away before then. By the way, many movies have fallen into the public domain because the studios were careless and forgot to renew their copyright. There is no such thing as a “lifetime” copyright unless you continue to pay the fees before it expires. Most authors and companies are careful about it – a few are not.

Although the corporation we created for the album no longer exists,
the owner of the work still continues to renew the copyright.


trainmaster on February 24, 2008 at 11:01 pm

One thought on Preston Kaufmann’s “San Francisco Fox – The Last Word” book.

In the 2003 annual eidition of THS dedicated to the S.F. Fox, it mentioned Mr. Kauffman’s recent passing and the fact that the book is scarce and it is doubted that it would ever be printed again.

Mr. Kauffman wrote and placed a copyright on the book in 1979. The copyright lasts for 25 years. It MUST be renewed before it expires,
or it becomes public domain, which means anyone can print it.

If some company who was interested in reprinting the book could locate the lost plates, or whatever they use in publishing from his company which want broke, there might be a chance, a very slim one, that the book could be reprinted, since there are no copyright protections to worry about. The book cannot be copyrighted again, since he was the original owner.

Something to think about – what do you folks say?


trainmaster on February 23, 2008 at 8:58 am

Sir Warren, you are correct about that. Too bad the book is no longer available to others, although I bought mine brand new in 1982.
It was at Holmes Book Store in Oakland. There were 2 copies. Hindsight is 20-20. I SHOULD have bought the other book as well, seeing how valuable it is.

My main point was not the spelling of the Theatre or Theater, but
people referred to the “San Francisco Fox” which was not the correct name. It was the Fox Theatre IN San Francisco. The middle “O” had either “World’s Finest Theater” or “The Last Word” which the latter was more often the case.

If you read, I believe (since I don’t have my copy in front of me) the rear cover flap, Mr. Kaufmann was going to do books on other theaters as well. Too bad he never got around to it and his passing, like Ben Hall’s was a great loss.


trainmaster on February 22, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Theater expert Jack Tillmany has the correction information on the name:

It was the Fox Theater, period.

It can be referred to as the Fox Theater in San Francisco, but it was NEVER called Fox Theater San Francisco, as compared to the FOX OAKLAND.

Some people get confused that the theater’s name was Fox Theater San Francisco. Same info applies to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, St. Louis, Brooklyn and Detroit.

Mr. Tillmany is quite a theater photo collector and has one of the largest collections of Bay Area theaters. He has two books out:
Theaters of San Francisco and Theaters of Oakland. Both books are excellent and highly recommended. You can get them from