Fox Theatre

1350 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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trainmaster on February 20, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Oops — one can get fooled. It was published Christmas Day 1987 New York Times – somehow today’s date appears.

This can be confusing for an older guy and sorry for the blooper.
But the contents are interesting just as well. Just copy and paste the link.


trainmaster on February 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I just hit the wrong button – I wanted “preview” and instead posted it.

I had one point of disagreement with the very helpful Warren on information. The studios DID own theaters, that is, until 1948 when the U.S. Federal Courts ruled against it. (You can read the legal issue at,Inc. complete with reference to U.S. Federal Court sites)

William Fox owned his empire, Paramount -Publix from Paramount Studios owned theirs, MGM was in partnership with Lowe’s and Warner Brothers had theirs.

And talk about timing – read today’s editorial in the New York Times
View link

It seems that there are provisions for the studios to get back into some ownership of theaters! That is today’s edition of the NY Times!

Studios had to divest of them after the court order. That is one reason “Fox West Coast Theaters” was created. And, NO, they really didn’t want to tear down the beautiful Fox Theaters – several examples are the Fox Theater San Francisco where they offered to give the theater to the city if S.F. would just by the property at its value – the Paramount (Oakland) was due to be torn down for a parking lot when Fox West Coast aproached Oakland and the symphony was looking for a new home; the asking price was the same as the S.F. Fox – one million dollars for the property, for which Fox West Coast donated half of the cost.

The most important point in this statement that FWC wanted to preserve their theaters was in the FOX Oakland (#2). In 1977 an auction sale was held for the theater. A number of developers bid.
And along with them, a little old lady named Erma Deluchi. She bid $340,000. The Fox executives were quite surprised and asked why she even had an interest in the theater and what was she going to do with it? She replied that she met her husband there, it was very special to them and she planned to restore it to operation. Her bid was the lowest. She was told FWC would get back to her.

Although her bid was the lowest, it was accepted. There was hope for the Fox-Oakland. However, her husband passed away shortly after she bought the building and lost all interest in restoring it. She sold it to the City of Oakland (by public domain) for 4 million dollars. Talk about a profit!! Oakland is searching for someone to restore it as they want the Fox in operation for their downtown revitalization project. The Friends of the Oakland Fox (FOOF) have more information on this subject.


Ziggy on February 20, 2008 at 12:24 pm

There were six Fox “Super Theatres” as they were originally called, the five mentioned above, and the Fox in Washington, D.C., which later became known as Loew’s Capitol. If this theatre was overlooked in David Naylor’s book it would not be surprising, since I have found several errors in that publication.

trainmaster on February 20, 2008 at 12:06 pm

I stand corrected on William Fox’s purchase of the Roxy –

According to David Naylor’s “American Picture Palaces (1981), the Atlanta Fox was planned as a Shriner’s Temple – they didn’t have the money to complete it, so William Fox put up the money in exchange for a long-term lease. The Shriner’s bowed out in 1939 leaving sole ownership to William Fox.

The five “fabulous Fox” theaters, according to this book are,
Detroit, St. Louis, Brooklyn, Atlanta and San Francisco. and were built in this order: Fox Brooklyn (4088 seats) Fox Detroit (5048 seats) in 1928; Fox St. Louis (5042) Fox Atlanta (3934) and Fox San Francisco (4651) in 1929. The S.F Fox was bigger than the Atlanta and I mis-read something about that in some other book. (Probably “America Goes To The Movies” nice book- but full of errors).

The Fox Oakland on Telegraph in Oakland designed by Weeks and Day was originally to be called the Bagdhad – it is the 2nd Fox Oakland.
The original Fox Oakland was on Broadway one block from the Paramount. For some sort of legal reasons, the name was changed to the Orpheum; it was demolished in 1967, having been closed many years. I have newspaper clippings I optained of the opening of the original Fox Oakland on Broadway. That was a beautiful theater on the inside, but is long forgotten.

I don’t know about the name “Fabulous Fox” and where it came from – I do know the S.F. Fox (and most of them) were advertised as “The Last Word.” S.F. Fox also had “World’s Finest Theater. Consult the Kaufmann Book for the adjective "Fabulous Fox.” I might research it when I feel up to it. Anyone else want to comment, I would love to hear.

HowardBHaas on February 20, 2008 at 6:55 am

I’m pretty sure the Philadelphia Fox was in ads as the Fabulous Fox so theater historians can select some other name to characterize ones they view as most special. Philadelphia has a right! (though the theater is gone).

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 20, 2008 at 6:52 am

I don’t know if the expression “Fabulous Fox Theatres” existed when those theatres were actually operating. It might have been dreamed up much later by theatre historians.

Scott on February 20, 2008 at 6:28 am

brucec, I believe you’re right. Although there were certainly other beautiful Fox theatres, such as the Fox Oakland at roughly 3300 seats, the five you named are the only ones that seated over 4000. Fortunately, 3 of the 5 are extant.

bruceanthony on February 20, 2008 at 5:51 am

I thought the Fox in Atlanta,Detroit,Brooklyn,St Louis and San Francisco were the Five “Fabulous” Fox Theatres. They all sat over 4000 seats.Is this correct Warren? brucec

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 20, 2008 at 5:41 am

I think that to be considered “Fabulous,” a Fox Theatre has to be at least 4,000 seats. The Philadelphia Fox seated only about 2,500. The Fox in Atlanta comes to mind, but it was built as a Shriners' Temple and became a cinema by default.

HowardBHaas on February 20, 2008 at 5:10 am

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

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on February 20, 2008 at 4:45 am

Some of the historical remarks made by “trainmaster” on 2/19/08 at 9:29 AM need to be corrected. William Fox bought control of the NYC Roxy Theatre soon after it opened in 1927. “Roxy” Rothafel continued as managing director until he left in 1930 to take charge of the new theatres planned for Rockefeller Center…The Fox in downtown Brooklyn, NY, should be included on the list of “Fabulous Fox Theatres.” When the Fox circuit declared bankruptcy, the creditors of the Brooklyn Fox sold the operating lease to Fabian Theatres, a division of Warner Brothers, so the Fox lost its connection with Fox (later known as 20th Century-Fox). From then on, Fox releases usually opened in downtown Brooklyn at the RKO Albee…Studios never owned theatres. The federal anti-trust suit was against five major corporations (Loew’s, Paramount, Warner Bros., 20th Century-Fox, RKO) that owned studios AND theatres. The defendants were ordered to “divest” one or the other, and all opted to retain their production-distribution facilities.

trainmaster on February 19, 2008 at 11:21 pm

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 19, 2008 at 11:10 pm

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 8:55 am

trainmaster, What about the Fox Theatre in Brooklyn?

trainmaster on February 19, 2008 at 7:29 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 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm

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 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm

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 17, 2008 at 9:24 pm

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 6:42 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 12:08 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 11, 2008 at 8:10 pm

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

trainmaster on February 9, 2008 at 10:37 am

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 1:01 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 12:36 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 21, 2007 at 8:45 pm

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