Copley Symphony Hall

1245 Seventh Avenue,
San Diego, CA 92101

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Copley Symphony Hall

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Opened on on November 8, 1929, the Fox Theatre seated almost 3,000 patrons.

In 1984, the Fox Theatre became the city’s second official civic theater and was donated to the San Diego Symphony. The theater underwent a $6 million restoration and renovation effort in 1985, re-opening as Copley Symphony Hall.

Contributed by William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on December 13, 2004 at 11:50 pm

Opened as the Fox Theatre on 8th November 1929 it cost $2.5m when built. At the time, it was the third largest theatre in California. The opening was attended by Buddy Rogers, Bessie Love and Buster Keaton.

The Fox closed in 1975 and remain empty until purchased by the City and was converted into a live productions venue in May 1977. It re-opened in November 1985 as the Copley Symphony Hall and during the eight intervening years the entire exterior of the original theatre had been altered to accomodate a large office block that was built around and above it. Even the main lobby and ticket hall had been totally modernised. But once inside the auditorium, it still exists in the style and decor it had when it first opened in 1929.

trooperboots
trooperboots on December 29, 2004 at 11:05 am

KenRoe is right on the money. The theater is totally modern until you walk into the auditorium. I would only add that the room is now painted in very subdued colors and I believe some of the ornamentation has been removed, because it seems very plain to me. Still, it is a nice venue for classical music and the acoustics are amazing! A very nice blending of a new structure and a historic auditorium, I would say.

William
William on February 23, 2007 at 5:40 pm

The opening night feature was Will Rogers in “They Had To See Paris”.

On that program it featured:

1) “The national Anthem” U.S. Navy Band & U.S. Marine Corps. Band

2) Al Lyons conducting the Fox Symphony Orchestra in a Dedicatory Overture “Slavische Rhapsodie”, C. Sharpe Minor at the Console.

3) Fox Movietone News “It Speaks For Itself”

4) Cartoon

5) Fox West Coast Theatres presents Fanchon & Marco’s “Jazz Temple” Idea.

6) Intermission (10 minutes) Art Exhibit…Mezzanine Promenade

7) Introduction of Hollywood Stars and Fox Fiesta Queens, Benny Rubin M/C

8) Feature Film “They Had To See Paris”

9) Exit March, C. Sharpe Minor at the Console

Medulus
Medulus on February 22, 2008 at 7:10 am

I attended a presentation last weekend of the 1922 silent version of “Robin Hood” starring Douglas Fairbanks. The original score was played by the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. During the intermission, the newly restored Fox Theater organ rose up out of the stage floor and we in the audience watched and listened with a sense of true awe. Altogether this was a wonderful experience I would like to see much more often.

danwhitehead1
danwhitehead1 on March 30, 2008 at 3:48 am

I am just delighted to know that the organ here speaks again. I attended several concerts back in the early 1970s which were sponsored by the American Theatre Organ Society. Dennis James was here twice and they were all wonderful concerts. I understand that there are plans to add more ranks so that the organ can also be used for classical music. This is great news.

JayAllenSanford
JayAllenSanford on October 31, 2008 at 1:57 pm

The Fox was hosting rock concerts in the late ‘70s. Also, found this interesting nugget on IMDB, RE Todd Browning’s career-destroying 1932 film Freaks:

Although production chief Irving Thalberg decided to re-cut the picture immediately after the disastrous test screening, he could not cancel the world premiere on January 28, 1932 at the 3,000-seat Fox Theatre in San Diego. This is the only venue at which the uncut version of “Freaks” is known to have played. Ironically, the unexpurgated “Freaks” was a major box-office success. Crowds lined up around the block to see the picture, which broke the theatre’s house record. By the end of the run, word had spread that “Freaks” was about to be butchered, and the theatre advertised, “Your last opportunity to see ‘Freaks’ in its uncensored form!”

spectrum
spectrum on February 6, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Their official website (in the description at top) has a nice set of virtual tours from various places in the auditorium and lobbies. It looks the original inner lobbies/mezanines are all original (restored) and the only modern part is the new outer lobby.

The virtual tours are worth checking out – the color is somewhat monotone, but in a nice way, very appropriate for a classical musical venue.

dickneeds111
dickneeds111 on March 25, 2012 at 3:30 am

While stationed in San Diego in 1962 I remember going to see The “Music Man” at a theatre called the Fox. It wasn’t downtown and it certainly wasn’t the same as the theatre shown here. If my memory is correct I remember the theatre being long and narrow and no balcony, It probably had around 1000 seats. It did have a great stereo sound for its time. Were there 2 Fox theatres or did it have anither name?

rivest266
rivest266 on April 1, 2012 at 11:34 pm

November 8th, 1929 grand opening ad has been posted in the photo section for this theatre.

LomaUsher
LomaUsher on March 14, 2014 at 8:11 am

Actually the interior decoration and color scheme of the Fox (Symphony Hall) is exactly the same as it was when it first opened. The company that painted it in 1929 was still in existence in 1985, and they were rehired to come back in and re-install their original color scheme. The restoration of the auditorium was meticulous, and nothing has been removed. It is a magnificent theater, which has hosted San Francisco Opera on tour during the 1950’s, and has its original Robert Morton theater organ fully operational. In fact, the organ was removed from the Balboa when in converted to sound in ‘29, but the builder of the Fox insisted on having an organ in his movie palace. Thank heaven. I assisted organ builder and technician Wendell Shoberg in getting the organ “buzzed out” for the first Nickelodeon Series concert after a cable had been accidentally cut during the installation of dressing-rooms under the stage. That first showing in 1986 was “Robin Hood” with Douglas Fairbanks, featuring Dennis James at the organ, with about 30 members of the San Diego Symphony playing the original score for orchestra and organ. It was a magnificent evening, which has led to many more. Long live the lovely Fox Theater/Copley-Jacobs Symphony. One of the finest theaters I know of in which to both hear, and SEE a concert!

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