Open house at the Fox

This past Thursday, the city of Riverside held a “Restoration Celebration” open house for the Fox Theater in downtown. Over a thousand people showed up to take a sneak peek inside the long-shuttered theater prior to its forthcoming $30 million renovation into a 1,600 seat performing arts center, which is expected to be completed in December 2008.

2007 – Open house

In attendance were Mayor Ron Loveridge, City Councilman Dom Betro and project architect Richard McCann of RFM Architecture, who has renovated Glendale’s Alex Theater, the Pasadena Playhouse and the California Theater in San Bernardino.

Also on hand was Joe Kobryner of the Nederlander Organization, which operates numerous theaters and venues across the nation, including 9 theaters in New York’s Broadway district as well as the Pantages and Wilshire theaters in Los Angeles and The Grove in Anaheim.

The Fox has long been a revered theater in Southern California. Opened in 1929 as the Riverside Theater, the venue’s name was eventually changed to Riverside Fox Theater as part of the chain’s West Coast Theaters group. Due to its proximity to Hollywood, the Fox became a favorite locale for movie test screenings, including the first public showing of “Gone with the Wind” in 1939.

2007 – Pre-renovation peek

In 1942, the large backstage area was converted into a second smaller theater (The Lido). By the late 1970s, both the Fox and Lido had seen better days. The former began showing Spanish language films while the latter was relegated to adult fare. Since the early 1990s, the Fox has essentially been sitting empty with only limited use.

As one of the cornerstones of the city’s “Renaissance” plan, the Fox will play a key part in bolstering rising activities downtown, particularly at night. Although both weeknight and weekend activity has grown steadily over the past few years, a healthy performing arts center will no doubt help solidify downtown’s reemergence.

Judging by the conversations — and the crowd — at the open house, it appears we’re not the only ones eagerly awaiting a rejuvenated Fox. And with both UCR and RCC performance arts schools in the works, downtown Riverside will soon have plenty of “artistic” company.



Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Press-Enterprise, RFM Architecture, Cinema Treasures

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