Fox Theatre

1350 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Fox Theatre, San Francisco - Mezzanine Level Floor Plan

Called "The Last Word", the Fox Theatre in San Francisco opened on June 28, 1929 as one of the grandest theatres ever built for the showing of motion pictures. The opening film was a world premiere presentation of “Behind That Curtain” starring Warner Baxter. The 4 Manual, 36 Rank, ‘Crawford special’ Wurlitzer organ was opened by organist Jamie Erickson, and the 3Manual, 12 Rank Moller organ, located in the Grand Lobby was opened by Erma Falvey.

The Fox Theatre was designed by Thomas W. Lamb for William Fox and his Fox Circuit, who made sure his wife, decorator Eve Leo Fox, was kept at arms length. Fox West Coast Theatres were the operators in association with Loew’s Incorporated.

The Fox Theatre was meant to be a part of a large office complex, which was never finished.

According to "Great American Movie Theaters" by David Naylor, the Fox Theatre was similar, but more grand, in detail to two other Lamb designed theatres, the Midland Theatre in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Loew’s Jersey Theatre in Jersey City. The Fox Theatre was apparently copied in 1932 by S. Charles Lee for the Los Angeles Theatre. The Los Angeles Theatre looks much like the Fox theatre, just on a smaller scale.

Due to the decline in people going to the movies in the late-1950’s and early-1960’s, the Fox Theatre was closed on February 15, 1963 with Boris Karloff in “The Raven” and Carl Boehem in “Peeping Tom”. A special final show “Farewell to the Fox” was staged on February 16, 1963, attended by many Hollywood film stars and personalities. Before demolition, the interior funishings and decorations were auctioned off on February 28, 1963. As the auction was proceding inside the theatre, the demolition contractors crane was poised on the outside, ready to commence its work on the theatre. Demolition was completed on August 12, 1963, and it was replaced by a modern skyscraper, named Fox Plaza.

Copies of the book written by Preston J. Kaufmann in 1979, about the Fox Theatre and its demolition are now considered rare and are worth several hundred dollars for a single copy.

Contributed by William French

Recent comments (view all 162 comments)

amnesia on July 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm

rferjo/ Rob – It’s fabulous you’ve come to this website, especially as there is such interest in re-printing the Preston Kaughman book. It;s been a while since your comment back on Feb – is there any progress in interest in re-printing it from your original plates? I’d leap at the chance to buy a new copy without spending $500.

Bobodude on June 12, 2014 at 7:48 am

As a boy of 7, my parents would take me to visit my uncle in San Francisco. His name was J. D. Griggs. I would ride with my dad in the car when he would drop him off at work in the afternoon right in front of the Fox. He was one of the full time projectionist at the Fox! I can remember him telling us of the grandure of the theater. He loved his work. He also worked at most of the other big movie houses in the “city”. I can also remember his comment when running Disney’s Old Yeller of all the patrons in the audience crying the hearts out. I wish I had been a little older to be able to appreciate the importance of this great landmark. In my later years I was able to obtain the 3 volume set of Fantasy Records LP’s, “Farewell to the Fox” with Tiny James and Everett Nourse at the console which I still have today. The sound of this mighty Wurlitzer is amazing and still raises a few hairs on my head.

BahamaPaul1 on September 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

My mother recently passed away at age 98 and when I cleaned out the attic of her garage I discovered 12 authentic theater seats from the original Fox Theater in San Francisco. These are evidently collectors items my dad bought in the early 60’S when they tore down the old movie palace. This row of theater seats is now 85 years old and still has the original undamaged steel structure, red corduroy backs, and hardwood arm rests. They need to be restored and reupholstered after all the years of heavy use at the FOX but they could be quite a conversation piece in a home theater for someone.

Does anyone have any idea what these 12 seats could be worth to a movie buff?

ellliot on July 17, 2016 at 10:02 pm

In 1963 I was the Capt of the Ushers Mr.Zotera appointed that to me as he liked me and he was not a heterosexual! He caught me making out with an Usherette in the bathroom and fired me!

Underneath the Stage was a row of small little wooden door makeup rooms for the movie stars that came to the theater to perform. Black and white autograpgh photos were hung in each room by many famous big name stars.

DavidZornig on September 17, 2016 at 7:30 pm

2 photos added via the San Francisco Remembered Facebook page. One is a demolition pic from 63, the other undated, but likely late30’s.

DavidZornig on February 28, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Scrolled back to 2008, and don’t see that this link was posted previously. It has demolition footage of the Fox.

NeptunusRex on March 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm

The Fox was the best looking theater and the largest in San Francisco. Frequently, I would enjoy a Saturday afternoon matinee which cost about 25 cents in the early 1950’s. You get get a soft drink, popcorn and candy for 50 cents. The Fox had so many levels to the balconey you could walk up three and four levels to the top of the world and the screen from the upper level looked like a small postage stamp. The Fox was a little displaced since most of Market street theaters were between seventh&fifth and market but she still had a strong following. When it came time to demolish her some city leaders dicussed using it for the SF Opera but that never materialized. In fact, it was during her final hours that they located some vagabond living in the attic who had been there sometime (if my memory recalls). It certainly was a San Francsico Treasure lost in time. We will never see another Theater with her grandeur and charm!

DavidZornig on July 12, 2017 at 12:09 pm

1951 photo added courtesy of the Robert’s World Facebook page.

rivest266 on July 31, 2018 at 5:47 pm

June 28th, 1929 grand opening ad in the photo section.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on June 18, 2020 at 11:09 am

A B&W trailer for the Fox’s “First Anniversary Show,” with musical accompaniment played on the theatre’s Wurlitzer organ, can be viewed here

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