Fox Performing Arts Center

3801 Mission Inn Avenue,
Riverside, CA 92501

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Showing 26 - 50 of 81 comments

joanneps on October 9, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Mike, I’ll send you a separate email since I know you!! I’m so glad you are documenting the theatre. Count me in for one of your books!! As I know from my wedding photos, you are one great photographer!

mjelderman on October 9, 2008 at 12:06 am

I AM planning a book, to be published at about the time the Fox has its grand reopening, probably about September-October, 2009. It will be primarily artistic photos made using light, shadow, color, geometry, but it will also have more literal documentation particularly of the features people associate with the theater — the grand staircase going up from the lobby, the two curved stairway facades at left and right front of the theater, the tower, the “preview” sign (which I think will return when the theater is finished). It will be a hardcover coffee table style book. Anyone who has historic information about the uses of the theater over the years is invited to send me the information at If you would like to receive e-mailed information on how to purchase the book for yourself or your company, please let me know. This is such an exciting project and the changes in the theater inside are already spectacular. Submitted by MJ Elderman

William on September 9, 2008 at 1:48 pm

National General Theatres the parent company for Fox West Coast Theatres started selling some pipe organs during the late 50’s though the 60’s. from their theatres. Some of the ones that did last till the sale to Mann Theatres were sold by Mann Theatres in the mid 70’s. time frame before Mann Theatres sold the houses.

joanneps on September 9, 2008 at 12:41 pm

Monika, Corinne and William, this is interesting information! So since the Preview sign obviously wasn’t there originally (like the first photo above shows), when was it put in—and was it there by the showing of the GWTW preview?

Also, we still need info relative to the pipe organ and when it was taken out.

Thanks so much for all of your help.

William on September 9, 2008 at 9:05 am

Preview signs were not original features to theatres. They were added once the studio liked the location for those out of town previews. Out of town previews started happening during the mid 30’s. Most theatres had banners to hang under marquees for those previews, but theatres that the studios liked. Installed those neon preview signs on the facades of the building or on the vertical signs of the theatres. The Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, CA and the Fox Theatre in Inglewood, CA had them installed that way. Many popular preview houses had sound dummies installed in their booths since the films were still picture and track format.

monika on September 9, 2008 at 8:35 am

In fact, the photo at the top of this page does not have the “preview ” sign in it.

monika on September 9, 2008 at 8:34 am

I do not believe that the “preview” sign was there originally. I recall seeing an old photograph without it. Let me see if I can find that photo and I’ll get back to you.

joanneps on September 8, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Thanks, Corinne, we haven’t had much luck with the City yet, that’s why I was asking here. I know Mike Elderman (he did my wedding photos!), and I’ll ask him, but I doubt if he knows the history of the Preview sign and the organ. So I’d still appreciate any “memories” from other people!

Frenchcori on September 8, 2008 at 10:10 pm

You may want to consult Historic Preservation with the Riverside City Planning Department. Call 951-826-5371 and ask for Erin Gettis. She’ll probably be able to answer your questions!

By the way, photographer Michael Elderman is documenting the restoration with beautiful photographs. I think he’s putting together his collection for a book. You can see his work at his studio: Division 9 Gallery on Lemon St, downtown Riverside.

joanneps on September 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm

I am doing some research on the Fox Theatre and have some questions for anyone who might have a long memory:

  1. When was the blue neon “Preview” sign put up?
  2. Was it there in 1939 when Gone With The Wind was previewed? (
  3. Was the original pipe organ still there when GWTW was previewed?
  4. When was the pipe organ taken out?

The Preview sign has been trashed as part of the city’s ongoing “restoration/rehabilitation.” WAS IT THERE IN 1939?

Thanks, anyone, for your help. What a great website!

elescobar on July 25, 2008 at 9:33 am

There is no indication that a film cannot be shown after the restoration. It can be done if a party has interest in showing a cinema production, especially with today’s technology in digital cinematography where large projector rooms are no longer necessary.

If such equipment would be purchased along with the other technology goodies needed for stage production is beyond me, though lobbying for a digital cinema projector (if it’s not on the shopping list already) may not be a bad idea.
Something to possibly look into?

monika on July 21, 2008 at 9:36 am

The option of showing films, though, like so many other theatres-turned-performing-arts places have done, would have been nice for the Fox. Hard to do with no projection booth.

elescobar on July 21, 2008 at 5:12 am

I don’t think it would hold as a modern day movie theatre with just one screen. Even the multiplex Market Place Theatre (by the Metrolink station) had to shut it’s doors (don’t know what going there now). With the performing arts departments of both UC Riverside and Riverside City College expanding, the opportunity to change the Fox into a performing arts centre may be the only chance of this place seeing any life. And besides, if promises of this place becoming a world-class theatre are met, we may just see Performance Riverside (staging company currently housed at RCC’s Landis Auditorium) and possibly The Riverside Philharmonic make a move to the Fox.

My Opinion, of course.

monika on June 23, 2008 at 11:47 am

TimBuck, it was not a live theater in the past. Like you and Rootmedia mentioned, the mark is definitely being missed here. Good luck to them attempting to make a successful live theater venue, I am skeptical but look forward to see if I am proven wrong.

monika on June 23, 2008 at 11:19 am

Linda21, that is great! My husband has taken some photos of the work as well, he drives a cement mixer and has gotten a chance to pour there a few times so far.Hopefully you’ll be able to share your friend’s photos with us!

Here’s a “behind the scenes” update from the Riverside Outlook’s May/June issue:

“It’s calm on the outside, but inside the Fox Theater there’s a huge unseen construction effort to restore the historic theater while transforming it into a state-of-the-art performing arts center.

The 18-month construction period began in May 2007.

The most pbvious change is the new rear wall of the stage house. Large buttresses now support the sidewalls. At ground level, all concrete flooring of the back stage area is gone and the new stage house foundations are installed.

Along Market Street and Mission Inn Avenue, the concrete floors and dividing walls of the storefront shop area have been removed, leaving only exposed dirt floors and concrete encased steel supporting beams. The Market Street storefronts will be consolidated into a theater lobby with a concession lounge area.

On Mission Inn Avenue, hte space will become performer dressing rooms, a backstage support area and a ticket office. The space above the old storefront shop areas will accommodate additional dressing rooms, wardrobe and flex space for community meeting.

Within the auditorium, renovation efforts have gone into full swing. The concrete wall between the auditorium and the backstage area has been removed. All theater seats have been taken out and the tops of all the concrete air tunnels have been demolished to enlarge the air conditioning capability. Finally, the balcony projection booth has been removed [pardon me for a second…. gasp!!!!] to provide space for additional theater seats and to create space for a new center spotlight.

Scaffolding will soon fill the entire auditorium. The Theater’s interior walls and ceiling will be cleaned and repainted to resemble the original designs and colors unique to the Riverside Fox Theater.

The exterior of the Fox will remain as Riversiders remember it, with only subtle change in the heating and cooling ducts and new roofing.

For more information, log onto

linda21 on April 21, 2008 at 10:38 am

during the constrution of the fox theater in riverside, my friend is on the crew rebuilding the theater and will be taking photos of the history making of riverside ca.

William on December 14, 2007 at 5:31 pm

When that picture was taken the theatre was part of Mann Theatres chain. During the 60’s National General Theatres re-marqueed many of their theatres. In the picture those two black circles once had the letters NG in them. You can se the old neon preview signage above the marquee too.

TimBuck on December 14, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Wow!, I went and saw Oh God! there!!
Amazing to see that pic

TimBuck on September 17, 2007 at 12:27 pm

It takes passion for something to get a project like this right. Looks like they may have missed the mark on this one unless the Fox was a live theatre before it was a movie theatre.

rootmedia on September 13, 2007 at 4:01 pm

After the City of Riverside took over the Fox Theater and under Dom Betro’s authority all the original theater seats were removed and a large hole was punched through the screen of the Fox Theater to get the seating out. The projectors were removed and trashed. The Fox Theater will not show movies but host live events only. The Fox Theater has been basically ransacked and nearly all historical elements were removed.

monika on July 10, 2007 at 10:46 am

Here are a couple shots of the Fox, taken this year:
View link
View link

Frenchcori on May 16, 2007 at 1:50 pm

For information and contributions to The Friends Of The Fox Theater, contact Janice Penner at the Riverside Downtown Partnership: (951)781-7339.

BobHarlow on February 16, 2007 at 12:59 pm

My family lived in Corona California in the late ‘50’s and we used to
go to the Fox because it had a lot of the best movies and was the best theater around. I liked it better than most of the Hollywood
theaters. I was 10 years old in 1958.

I remember seeing “Auntie Mame” “The Vikings” “Rio Bravo” and
“North By Northwest”. The screen was huge and the picture was always
bright.It was a great experience to see a movie there.

charmomder on January 6, 2007 at 9:14 am

RIVERSIDE – Call it the 21st century Fox.

Silvia Flores / The Press-Enterprise
The city of Riverside is converting the Fox Theater, built in 1929, into a 1,600-seat performing arts center. It will be made earthquake- safe and will have an expanded stage and new lighting systems.

The City Council on Tuesday awarded a contract for up to almost $30 million to Santa Ana-based Bayley Construction to design and carry out the renovation of the historic Fox Theater downtown.

The city is converting the structure, built in 1929, into a 1,600-seat performing arts center. It will be made earthquake-safe and will have an expanded stage as well as the latest lighting, sound and video systems. It will be made accessible to the disabled.

The $29.8 million contract calls for Bayley to do the work in 21 months. It includes $22.5 mil- lion for design and construction, $2.3 million for optional additional work and a 20 per-cent contingency fund of almost $5 million.

The city’s hope is that the past will represent downtown’s future.

Officials see the Fox as the centerpiece of their downtown revitalization efforts, which focus on making the city an arts and culture mecca for the Inland region. It is one of the largest projects included in the Riverside Renaissance Initiative, the city’s plan for $785 mil-lion worth of projects in the next five years.

“This is a major, major deal in terms of putting us on the map,” Councilman Dom Betro, whose ward includes downtown, said about the Fox on Monday. “This is our breakthrough.”

A Broadway show producer, the Nederlander Organization, has expressed an interest in bringing its touring productions to the Fox.

Concerts, conventions, graduations and performances by local arts groups are uses the city is considering renting the Fox for, officials said.

But the city does not expect the Fox to be a moneymaker by itself, Assistant City Manager Michael Beck said. Its economic value lies mainly in stimulating spending by its patrons at other locations, such as restaurants and bars, he said.

Plans call for a bank loan to pay for the construction, though the city initially expects to borrow some money from its $275 million cash pool so it can get the work rolling before the loan is in place, Beck said.

The city also hopes to obtain close to $4 million in federal tax credits.

The city ultimately plans to sell off more than $75 million in surplus property to help pay for the Fox and some other Renaissance projects.

La Sierra resident Yolanda Garland criticized the project and its cost, saying it would be better for a private investor to restore the Fox.

Downtown resident Chani Beeman recalled the people who mocked the plans to restore the Mission Inn and said the Fox rehabilitation will pay off for the city.

Demolition of portions of the building and removal of asbestos and other toxic materials will start in January, said Robert Wise, the city’s project manager for the Fox. Construction is likely to being in April, he said.

Dave Kellstrand, director of theater facilities at UC Riverside, said 32 years ago he went on his first date to the Fox with the woman who is now his wife.

The $30 million renovation cost is not out of line, he said, especially considering historic buildings often have unforeseen problems.

“I’d just really like to see it succeed,” Kellstrand said.

Preservation expert Knox Mellon, a Riverside resident, said the Fox is the last historic building in Riverside he expects to need such an expensive overhaul.

“I think it’s going to be a showpiece,” he said.

Reach Doug Haberman at 951-368-9644 or