Memories of Mission Hills: The Fox Theatre Downtown, Video

9 Aug
I grew up loving the Fox Theatre in Downtown, San Diego. I saw Escape from Witch Mountain, Herbie the Love Bug, the Broadway musical Annie and my last memory was Devo concert at The Fox Theatre, 07/09/80. Today Im including some history and pics from one of my fav memories from growing up in Mission Hills. I also liked going to the sporting goods store Stanley Andrews on 2nd and Broadway.
The Fox Theatre opened in San Diego at the heyday of the silver screen era in 1929 with a huge contingent of stars arriving in their limousines to celebrate the beautiful addition to downtown San Diego. After World War II, the Fox stood silent. The San Diego Symphony acquired what was the Fox Theatre in 1984 at an initial cost of $7.5 million and renovations began performed by the same company that built the original theater. Video after the jump.

Skip to 3:35sec for Fox Theatre


It was David Atherton who, as music director, led the efforts to move the orchestra to the vacant Fox Theatre in downtown San Diego. That hall has a very interesting history. Philip Gildred, a carefree young entrepreneur whose travel plans were delayed in San Diego on his way from South America to New York, liked San Diego so much that he embarked upon a plan to give the city a landmark theatre. In association with William Fox of the Fox Theatre chain, he built the Fox Theatre for $2.5 million. It is estimated that today’s cost would be 20 times that amount. Originally the full structure between 8th and 9th avenues on B Street contained not only the large theatre but also a parking garage (a new concept in the 1920’s), offices and a large department store that served downtown for many years as Montgomery Ward.


The new Fox received only the best. A huge, $50,000 pipe organ was built into five walled chambers of the theatre. The interior decorative motif was cast vaguely in a Rococo theme, somewhat typical of the French Renaissance. Built by William Simpson Construction Co., the theatre was designed jointly by the architect W. Templeton Johnson, and William Day of the designer firm Weeks and Day. The theatre is believed to be the last surviving example of designer William Day’s creative work with this decor. Accuracy insists, however, that much of the interior decoration was the work of William Fox’s favorite designer, Mrs. Fox, whose tastes ran to the somewhat spectacular, often combining facets of various periods and geographies. Over the years, the interior has been preserved in its original motif, and regardless of the mélange it represents, it must be acknowledged that, if anything, it is appropriately theatrical!


In addition to a trainload of Hollywood personalities brought to San Diego for the opening night festivities in 1929, San Diegans turned out in record numbers to participate in the parade from Broadway to the theatre. The city’s population was 147,000. The crowd was estimated at 100,000. Some of the guest stars on opening night were Jackie Coogan, Buster Keaton, George Jessel and Will Rogers.
On opening day the Fox became San Diego’s largest movie theatre. It was then the third largest in the state, but today stands as California’s largest. Because of San Diego’s cross section of population, the Fox also became a choice for motion picture sneak previews. Walt Disney loved the atmosphere so much that he opened all of his movies at the Fox.
Click here for interview with Stanley Andrews:

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