Tower Theatre

815 E. Olive Avenue,
Fresno, CA 93728

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Tower Theatre

The Tower Theatre opened with a premier showing of the film ‘Balalaika’ for a private party of local dignitaries, Fox Theater executives, and guests on December 14, 1939.

Co-hosts for the event were developer and owner A. Emory Wishon (1882-1948) of San Francisco, a prominent California hydroelectric executive, and Charles P. Skoura of Los Angeles, president of Fox West Coast Theaters. The theater opened its doors to the film-viewing public on December 15, 1939. The double feature program included ‘Dancing Coed’ and ‘Henry Goes Arizona.’

A complete restoration of the exterior facade, ongoing tenant improvements in the retail wings, and modifications to allow the adaptive reuse of the theater auditorium for the performing arts have brought new life to the theater and to the surrounding Tower District. The area has since become a lively collection of restaurants, pubs, jazz clubs, and antique shops, with the highly successful ‘Tower Theatre for the Performing Arts’ at its center.

In 1991, the dramatic theater rehabilitation was honored with a California Preservation Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Restoration, and with an Award of Honor from the San Joaquin Chapter, American Institute of Architects.

Contributed by Paul Salley

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

moviedream on July 19, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Back in the earlyh 1980s I was the operator/manager of the Tower Theater. It was a fantastic experience. We called it “McHatton’s Tower Theater” at that time. We were a “calendar house” because we published a calendar/newspaper every six to eight weeks with listings and articles and cool graphics about our upcoming films. We changed films two, three, sometimes four times a week. We did midnight shows on Friday and Saturday nights. We did Three Stooges Marathons and lots of Rock n Roll movies. I especially remember the “Curly look and sound a like” contests. We showed old classic movies like the re-release of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” and “Vertigo.” We showed lots of foreign films and art films. We showed Armenian films, Japanese films, and even Gay films sometimes. Our goal was to bring people back into the movie theater and help them enjoy the experience of watching a film like it was meant to be seen—on the BIG screen. We used real butter on our popcorn and we went out of our way to make sure your feet did not stick to the floors. We showed many old classics like Ben Hur. One of my favorite events was when I started bringing in famous filmmakers to do film festivals or tributes. I was fortunate to spend two days with filmmaker Frank Capra who came out for a charity film festival. I also enjoyed meeting Robert Towne and I will never forget meeting director Russ Meyer. I realized Russ was a true independent filmmaker when he popped the trunk of his car and inside their was a full blown 35mm movie camera. I also really enjoyed putting on live concerts at the Tower. We had a terrific Tower Blues Festival where I got to spend some time with John Lee Hooker. And then I will never forget when I went partners with Budd Friedmann to bring live comedy to the Tower Theater. We really had a great time bringing in comics Paul Rodriguez, Dana Carvey, Ellen DeGeneres, and even Jim Carrey before he became famous. I am very appreciative to all the great movie fans and terrific people in Fresno. I recently went to Fresno for my 30th High School reunion and I made sure to drive by the Tower Theater. I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Tower and all the incredible people I met during my special time as the owner/operator of the Tower Theater.

kencmcintyre on November 29, 2007 at 7:51 pm

If you have an extra 4.2 million lying around, it’s yours:

drb on May 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

The tower, especially the sparkle-y ball on top, looks a great deal like another S. Charles Lee marquee, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, which was added to that theater a year after this one was built.

TLSLOEWS on May 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Very nice looks great all lit up a night.

TLSLOEWS on May 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Very nice looks great all lit up a night.

William on May 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm

-DB, Don’t forget the Academy Theatre in Inglewood, CA also has a neon sparkle ball too.

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