Alberta Bair Theater for the Performing Arts
2801 Third Avenue North,
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The Fox Theatre opened on November 17, 1931, with the Janet Gaynor film “Merely Mary Ann”. It was built in glamorous Art Deco style by architect R. C. Reamer. There was also a parade down Third Avenue and live entertainment opening night. The theater was built on the site of the homestead of the Bair family.
The Fox Theatre continued to be not only a movie house, but a venue for live performances for decades, long the home of the Billings Symphony Orchestra and Chorale group, as well as the Fox Committe for the Performing Arts, which sponsored live theater, musicals, and concerts over the years. Among the artists to perform at the Fox included Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, and Judy Collins.
In 1978, the Fox Theatre was acquired by Carsich Theatres, which was going to convert the theater into a modern triplex. However, the Fox Committee stopped these plans, had the theater added to the National Register of Historic Buildings, and began a fund-rasing campaign to restore the aging building. Around this time, also, the city of Billings was hoping to raze the Fox Theatre and replace it with a parking lot.
Eventually, the city dropped its plans, and bought the Fox Theatre, which it leased to the newly-formed Alberta Bair Theater Corporation. Alberta Bair, a daughter of the man who formerly owned the property the Fox was built on, gave a generous gift towards the theater’s restoration, and the theater was afterwards renamed in her honor.
The Alberta Bair Theater for the Performing Arts reopened in 1987, returned to its original 1930’s beauty, with a concert by Burt Bacharach. Today, the theater is one of Montana’s premier cultural venues.
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