Art Deco Architecture

The Old Modern - Then and Now

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Fox Theatre, Detroit, Michigan
Photos from HistoricDetroit.org

Wow. This rivals Atlanta’s own Fox Theatre for sheer exuberant exoticism. Like many theaters of its era, its style is a pastiche that includes Deco, Baroque, Egyptian, Moorish, whatever looked cool.

From the listing on HistoricDetroit.org:

Designed and built for the Fox Films chain by C. Howard Crane in the Oriental style in 1928, this movie palace contained 5,041 seats and a unique mix of Egyptian, Far Eastern and Indian styles to create a movie palace like no other. It was built to replace the Fox Washington Theatre near Grand Circus Park, which was deemed too outdated and small at 1,862 seats.

The lobby is a half-block long and is six stories high. The Fox has two organs, a 4-manual 36-rank Wurlitzer in the auditorium and a 3-manual 13-rank Moller organ in the lobby.

The Fox opened Sept. 21, 1928, with the silent film “Street Angel.”

Over the years, the Fox held Vaudeville, live stage, newsreels, organ concerts and 35-cent talkies. In the 1950s, the Fox held many premieres and concerts. As Detroit began to decline in the late 1960s and ’70s, it later switched to kung-fu and horror films.

The Fox was beginning to become a run-down theater. It was purchased in 1987 by the Ilitch family, and went through an 18-month, $12-million restoration to return it to its original grandeur. A new multistory marquee was made to replace the badly altered original.

On June 29, 1989, the Fox Theatre was designated a National Historic Landmark.

On Jan. 12, 2006, Atanas Ilitch of Ilitch Holdings announced the recreation of the tower sign on the roof of the Fox. It was completed and dedicated Jan. 30, 2006. The multistory tower features 18-foot letters spelling out “FOX” on four sides, topped off by a dodecahedron star. The sign has a computer controlled LED light system that is capable of many lighting colors to reflect anything from holidays to seasons to special events.

Today, the Fox is a successful result of preservation and restoration that could be done to many of Detroit’s other buildings. The Fox holds concerts and special events, including the Rockettes and “Sesame Street Live.”

Filed under fox theatre architecture detroit michigan historic preservation theater renovation historic theater theater theatre movie palace movie theater cinema

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