Fox Theatre

1350 Market Street,
San Francisco, CA 94102

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Fox Theatre, San Francisco - Mezzanine Level Floor Plan

Viewing: Photo | Street View

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, 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 156 comments)

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on July 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm

My greatest posessions are my “Fox, the last word” so well written by the late Preston J. Koffman -what a tallented and careing kid he was. I’ll never tire of reading it… and a Cherub which was positioned over the center front inner lobby doors. Damn those greedy fools for destroying such a magnificent treasure.

Market
Market on September 10, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I saw 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea at the Fox in October of 1963. Problem. The theater was supposedly torn down in February of that year. Thought I was crazy, went back and looked up the movie listings in the Chronicle on microfilm. It’s there, lots of other movies showing at the Fox all the way through Dead Ringers and Dr. Crippen in February of 1964…

Is the date of demolition 1963 a mistake that has been copied over and over again?

Or, was there another Fox Theater at Ninth and Market??????

Jimmyg
Jimmyg on September 11, 2012 at 7:47 am

Saw the Raven @ the Fox in early 63. And was inside after wrecking ball punched a hole in wall with daylight. And my Parents were divorced in summer of 63. So early Feb 63 sounds right

Petite
Petite on December 19, 2012 at 3:26 am

Missed the newsreels and “Leagues under the Sea” movie… It was great & wanted more, but it all disappeared so fast! I was only ten in 1963. Thanks for bringing a tiny piece of time back.

rferjo
rferjo on February 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Need some advise, I worked with Preston Kaughman back in the late 70’s. I was the pressman and owner of the printing company that ran I believe 3 runs of “THE FOX” Book. I do have 2 copies of it along with all the printing plates and negative. After Preston past on he left everything to me. All the pictures and artwork are sitting in boxes. If someone is interested, make me an offer I can send pictures or make arrangements to see everything. (Rob)

Joel_V
Joel_V on June 17, 2013 at 1:32 pm

@hdtv267, have you approached publishers, Chronicle Books for example, about reissuing Mr. Kaufmann’s book again since it’s out-of-print? Or perhaps SPUR organization in SF about an exhibition?

Joel_V
Joel_V on June 17, 2013 at 1:33 pm

sorry, my above comment I meant to address to rferjo.

amnesia
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
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
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?

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