Fox Theatre

1350 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Showing 76 - 100 of 160 comments

HowardBHaas on February 20, 2008 at 9:10 am

I’d add the 16th & Market Street Fox Theatre in Philadelphia to the list. I understand it was also called Fabulous Fox.

trainmaster on February 20, 2008 at 3:21 am

It is HEARTBREAKING when grand palaces fall to the wrecking ball

posted by CHI74

I wish there could be a great big neon sign with the statement above!
It was very hard and emotional on me to watch both the S.F. Fox, The Paramount (former Granada) in S.F. and the New York Roxy come down!
That statement especially applies to the Fox and Roxy! They were, in my opinion, two of the finest theater was built. Which one was more opulent? That is a hard question to answer. The Fox appeared it its glory and in excellent condition even during the last week.
The Roxy had suffered neglect, the front prosenium torn apart, but any of that was repairable. Both theatres were outstanding.

I am now concerned about the Los Angeles – they have been closed since 1994. While the Los Angeles was deliberately built to somewhat resemble the S.F. Fox, the owners didn’t have the money the Fox empire had to splurge! It is a beautiful theater and STILL here (and hope it stays so) but it can’t even begin to compare to the S.F. Fox, not to mention the New York Roxy.

As I posted earlier, the St. Louis Fox (larger than the S.F. Fox was almost torn down, but saved and had millions of dollars spent on restoration to make it appear exactly as it did on opening day. I recommend the VERY VERY limited supply of the St Louis Fox 1985 Annual No. 12 from Theater Historical Society to see what the Fabulous Fox looked like. The Detriot was identical and under city ownership as is the St. Louis. The last of the Fabulous Foxes, the Atlanta one also has a Cinderella story, being saved at the last minute. This theater is different, has an “atmospheric” interior and the largest theater organ (42-rank Might MO) after the RCMH. Wurlitzer. Atlanta Fox was slightly larger than the S.F. Fox but not as opulent. William Fox deliberatly saved the “best for the last.”

trainmaster on February 20, 2008 at 3:10 am

That has gone Bye-Bye! You can get an issue on that theater from Theater Historical Society. It is Annual 1982 # 9 and will tell you everything you want to know about that one and includes many pictures.


William on February 19, 2008 at 12:55 pm

trainmaster, What about the Fox Theatre in Brooklyn?

trainmaster on February 19, 2008 at 11:29 am

They were. They were built by William Fox when he had his empire and built four fabulous Fox Theaters, the San Francisco being the last and most opulent (and smallest of them all).

The entire list was

Fox Theater Detriot
Fox Theater St. Louis MO
Fox Theater Atlanta Ga
Fox Theater San Francisco **

William Fox also owned the Roxy New York a few years after Roxy left.

The Federal courts issued a ruling that movie studios could not own theaters, so all the movie studios had to diverse it self from the theaters. Fox West Coast took over operation of all the theaters.
Every Fox Theater had a identical sign to the Fox Theater listed above, but were not build by William Fox.

If you have dollars to spend, I recommend you look on for Preston Kauffman’s excellent book “Fox – The Last Word.” That book goes anywhere from $400.00 to $1500 depending on condition. Read the fine print about condition. If you can afford one, get it! It will never be published again and I guarantee you that the book will go up in value due to its scarceness and high demand.

By the way, I don’t think anyone answered Paty’s question about what is on the Fox Site now – it is a high rise building called “Fox Plaza” and consists of office buildings and condiminums for sale.
The entrance to the building has beautiful photos of the great theater, so at least they paid tribute to it.

For those of you interested in checking out the other great Fabulous
Foxes, google Fox St. Louis and Detroit and also the Fox Atlanta.
The THS has a few limited copies of the Fox St. Louis at $15.00 as well as the 2003 annual of the Fox San Francisco for $10.00. While the latter doesn’t compare with the Kauffman book, it certainly has a lot of pictures and is well worth the money. I am sure the stock will be depleted soon, so if you want a copy, better order now.


The federal courts ruled that movie studios

CHICTH74 on February 18, 2008 at 2:03 am

My thanks to trainmaster for answering my quetion about the S.F.FOX and the Detroit FOX i though that thay might be becuse to me the vertical sign that says FOX looked to be the same on them bouth.

Thank You for you time on this question.

trainmaster on February 18, 2008 at 1:56 am

In reference to Steve2’s comment on the Roxy Theater in New York…

I was in that theater a number of times as well as the S.F. Fox.

Which theater is more opulent is open to personal opinion. There is no doubt that if any theater equalled or even surpassed the S.F. Fox, the Roxy would be the one. The Roxy Rotunda was overwhelming!
The theater auditorium was gorgeous! Although the proscenium was ruined because of constant changes, last being to accomodate Cinemascope presentation (235:1) (where the S.F. Fox could do it without any alterations), the Roxy was a first class theater. You can add the Mastbaum (Philadelphia) to that list as well and the Paradise in Chicago. They are all gone.

The Roxy had no demolition warning – it was just closed and the wrecking balls came in. The old Hotel Taft (which shared space with the Roxy for the entrance) was responsible for that loss – the Hotel was owned by developers who tore down the Roxy and erected a high rise, leaving the Hotel Taft intact and still in use. Today, the Roxy entrance is a TGIF restuarant.

Although I detest that high-rise that stands on the S.F. Fox site, I must give them credit for hanging beautiful pictures inside the entrance which show you the view you would see where you are standing of the great theater. They also named their building after the theater.

They didn’t do any such thing for the Roxy. Both of these theaters were the greatest! It’s just my opinion, but RCMH didn’t compare with the Roxy, even though Roxy, the person, completely designed RCMH. It was designed in moderne (art deco). I am not saying RCMH is not a beautiful theater – it just does not compare with the Roxy or S.F. Fox.

One word to ANY of you S.F. Fox Fans…..although there is an excellent book on that theater by Preston Kaufmann, it was a local printing and since he has passed away, very unlikely it will every be reprinted. The copies printed were very few. I was one of the lucky ones to purchase it in 1982 when it came out for $35.00. Today, a book in that condition goes for around $1500.00. Just check for an excellent like-new copy.

HOWEVER – all hope is not lost! There are a few remaining copies of the Theater Historical Society’s 2003 Annual which is about the S.F. Fox and is loaded with pictures! The cost is $10.00. While this annual in no way compares with the Kauffman book, it is the next best thing and full of photos. Anyone wanting one better order now because they are in short supply and once they are gone – that’s it!



trainmaster on February 18, 2008 at 1:24 am

The Fox Theater in Detriot and St. Louis are “Siamese Twins” that is, identical.

The Fox San Francisco was the last of the theaters and the most opulant built by William Fox. So yes, they were all under the same ownership.

The Siamese Twins are still standing and in great shape and slightly larger than the S. F. Fox. The Detriot Fox still shows movies and
has performing arts. In the early 1980’s, things looked gloomy for the St. Louis Fox. It was in a shambles. Fortunately, the theater was rescued, restored to its original appearance and serves as a performing arts center now.

Too bad the S.F.Fox didn’t last long enough for such an option. Of all the grand theaters build by William Fox, all are saved except the S.F. Fox, the theater William Fox saved for his last – and best one!

The Atlanta Fox was built the same years as the S.F. Fox in joint partnership with the Shriner’s and William Fox. The Shriners quickly pulled out – the theater was almost lost in the 1970's
and had a date with the wrecking ball. The city of Atlanta rallied to buy the theater and save it for performing arts. At least the people of Atlanta had more sense than the City of San Francisco.


CHICTH74 on February 17, 2008 at 10:42 pm

Is this FOX THEATRE related to the FOX in DETROIT?

It is HEARTBREAKING when grand palaces fall to the wrecking ball
Thank You for Your Time

trainmaster on February 12, 2008 at 4:08 pm

In response to Mr Steve Griffin’s question on who was the executive
responsible for the demolition of the S.F. Fox……

I lived in the area at the time and had attended the Fox many times. I saved all the newspaper articles and still have them which followed the issue.

To be fair to Fox West Coast Theaters, they really did NOT want to tear down the Fox. They tried in vain save it. Like the Roxy Theater in New York, they could not afford to keep the theater open, nor could they afford the taxes on a closed theater with no revenue.

They offered to GIVE the theater to the City of San Francisco. All they asked was that the city purchase the property ONLY – not the theater. That was a very generous offer.

You can begin your blame on Mayer George Christopher, but he is no longer around. Enough people signed a petition to place the issue on the 1962 ballet. It was 1961 that National General announced the Fox was closing. Mayor Christopher led a successful campaign to defeat the saving of the Fox and the proposition was defeated by a very slim margin. Had a mayor who was in favor of saving the Fox been in office at the time, I am sure negotiations could have been made to place the matter on the ballot again. However, Mayor Christopher was very anti-Fox, saw no use in the building (it never occured to him that the San Francisco Symphony, which was using the Opera House for its concerts at the time, might want a place of their own, plus the city needing a convention center) and called it a burden on taxpayers. (He was very conservative). If the person before him or Joe Alioto who succeded him was in charge, I think the Fox would still be around.

As tragic as the loss of the Fox was, one good thing came out of it.
The Paramount Theater in Oakland, one of the finest Art Deco theaters in the nation was in the same situation, and once again, Fox West Coast Theaters did NOT want to tear it down, made the same offer to Oakland. The Oakland Symphony needed a place and Fox West Coast offered to GIVE them the theater if they would buy the property. They HAD to have $1 million for the theater, but would donate half that cost if the Symphony would come up with the rest.

They solicited Becktal and Kaiser who each donated $250,000 and the theater was saved! Later, the city of Oakland took over operations of the Paramount and bought the Fox Oakland as well.

The idiots on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors led by a mayor
who was against spending money on anything worthwhile are the ones to thank for the loss of the Fox. San Francisco learned a very expensive lesson and the city (and country) suffered an irreplaceable loss.

One note of interest not related to this topic: The Gothic CD label, which usually deals with classical recordings, has acquired the rights to the George Wright recordings and they are available on CD. There were two record albums titled “Farewell To The Fox” at the time of the theater’s closing. Wouldn’t it be nice to reissue
these recordings onto CD?

As to the KPEN recording of the last sounds of the Fox, I have that on reel-to-reel tape – I recorded it when it was broadcast in stereo!
If I ever get another reel-to-reel recorder, I will transfer it to CD. The same statement applies to the two “Farewell” albums.


Steve2 on February 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

Such a tragic loss. The Roxy demolition in NYC was also a mammoth miscalculated loss.

trainmaster on February 9, 2008 at 2:37 pm

In regards to Mr. French’s comment about the Fox book, I assume he is referring to the excellent Preston Kaufman’s “Fox-The Last Word."
If Mr. French can find a copy of that book for a hundred dollars, I would like to know where.

I bought my copy when it was new for $35.00. A copy in excellent condition goes for over $1500 on either E-Bay or

I also have all the articles I saved on the Fox starting with the 1961 notice of closing. Copies of these articles are in the Kaufman book.

It was the demolition of the Fox, together with the razing of the Penn Station in NY which made people aware they should save these treasures. Take SF for example – the theater had magnificant acoustics, could seat nearly 5000 people. The city spent millions to build Davis Symphony Hall, only to spend millions more to correct the terrible acoustics which STILL don’t equal those of the Fox.
There would have been no need to build the Moscone Center either, as the Fox could have served as a good convention center.

The city could have had the Fox for just the price of the property, about a million dollars. Instead, the foolish people rejected the theater and spent billions unnecessarily on the two structures (Davis Hall ahd Moscone) where the Fox would have been a perfect solution.

The only good which came out of this terrible loss (of the Fox) was that other cities (including Oakland) learned the value of these theaters. The St. Louis Fox was saved as well as other fine theaters.

What is lost can’t be replaced. Right?

One note: the SF Fox Organ is now installed in the El Capiton Theater in Los Angeles.


marantzguy on February 6, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Just one more little detail:

Apparently, demolition of the old FOX THEATRE, San Francisco, was completed on February 16, 1963, leaving open a unique option to KPEN and Jim Gabbert to engineer the broadcast of the theater pipe organ in the San Francisco Paramount Theatre on May 30, 1964.

Richard Links
Berkeley, CA

marantzguy on February 6, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Regarding the old San Francisco Paramount Theatre:

I recently obtained a homemade open reel stereo tape recording of a May 30, 1964 live broadcast of the wonderful Wurlitzer pipe organ in the old Paramount Theater in San Francisco. The broadcast was produced by well known Bay Area broadcasting “legend”, Jim Gabbert over KPEN.

Part of the broadcast was devoted to a “mini tour” of the mechanical works below the floor of the main auditorium in the Paramount, SF.

Incidentally, this broadcast was aired from 1:00 – 2:15 AM on May 30, 1964, mostly for audio enthusiasts and night-owls, without any commercial interruptions.

I am going to present the re-mastered cd to the archives of David Jackson’s wonderful site devoted to Bay Area Radio Broadcasting History:

And let me just say that the quality of this broadcast was really quite impressive, considering that FM multiplex stereo broadcasting had only been offered in the SF / Bay Area for perhaps three years when all of this happened.

What a unique document of that wonderful Wurlitzer!


Richard Links
Links Sound
Berkeley, CA

Steve2 on December 22, 2007 at 12:45 am

Happened to read some of the ROXY Theater NY comments. It’s also facinating movie palace nostalgia to rival the FOX.

spectrum on December 21, 2007 at 4:38 pm

A couple nice videos on YouTube:

  1. View link

This one is from a period newsreel or documentary from 1963. It starts with some documentary color footage of the auditorium and organ chambers with descriptions of the pipe setup. Then continues to newsreel footage of the demolition and concludes with the final organ solo played at the Fox during the farewell concert. Really interesting to see the inside of the organ chambers during a concert with the shutters swinging and the relays in action!

  1. View link

This one shows a lot of color still photos of the Fox auditorium, lobbies and lounges with some narration about its demolition and the performance of a final medley on the organ just before the organ’s removal from the theatre. The Fox portion starts about 2 minutes into the video.

William on December 4, 2007 at 2:12 pm

That documentary about the Fox shows also shows some footage of the farewell show before it was torn down.

Rory on September 19, 2007 at 7:21 pm

There’s a new Fox DVD collection of original “Fly” films, and one of the extras is a Fox Movietone Newsreel segment showing the premiere of the original “The Fly” at the Fox Theatre on July 16, 1958. Sadly, the segment is all too brief.

aarundell on September 1, 2007 at 6:11 pm

Me too, Ken!… (Linden Carlton)

wurlitzer11 on September 1, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Hi Ken, Thank you for your quick response. I have been looking for this video for years. I used to have it. Everyone I ask either does not have it or has never heard of it. I would love to have a copy of it or by an original from somewhere. If you hear of anything, let me know. Thanks. here is my email

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 1, 2007 at 9:27 am

“The Fabulous Fox” 1929-1963 A Bartel-Thomsen Pictures Presentation Released 1988 Running time 28 minutes Color

‘Experience the elegance and grace of The World’s Finest Theater. Explore the lavishly decorated lobby, the magnificent 5,000 seat auditorium and hear the mighty Wurlitzer’

wurlitzer11 on September 1, 2007 at 9:06 am

Does anyone know if there is any info about a VHS video documentary about the fox? I remember it had a section about the organ with Ev Nourse as well as the facade falling down at the end. What was the name of the video and where can I get it?

bruceanthony on August 17, 2007 at 12:25 pm

The sad thing about the San Francisco Fox not only was it one of the greatest theatres ever built in the United States along with the Roxy in New York it would have been a huge hit today.The three most successful theatres in the United States are the Detroit Fox, Atlanta Fox and the St Louis Fox. The San Francisco Fox was the grandest of them all. Had it survived it would have housed concerts, Broadway Shows and conventions.It would have been a great site for classic film and organ conerts.brucec

bruceanthony on August 6, 2007 at 1:45 pm

The bookings for the Fox in the 1960’s were not very good and the film studio was having financial difficulties so little wonder that National General wanted to drop this large house. Attendance and film production declined in the late 1950’s which hurt many theatres across the nation. The major studios now were only producing two event films a year presented at the long run roadshow reserved seat theatres with desired seating between 1200-1500. This left the Fox without the big fims they were playing such as the “Robe” a few years earlier. Its to bad that the Fox wasn’t divided into two theatres playing the roadshow fims which may have saved it from the wrecking ball and then could have been restored back at a later date. The balcony could have been turned into a second theatre without damaging the decor because it was such a large space. I wonder if anyone had thought about doing that at the time because the Golden Gate was divided two years later.brucec

Steve2 on August 5, 2007 at 7:24 pm

This is really facinating reading. My older brother and sister told me we saw a “Sampson” movie there which means I was 3 years old then.

Hard to believe there were once 2 dozen movie theaters between 4th & 10th on Market street. What a MAGICAL time that must have been. And so tragic that most all are gone. Sad.