Save the Fox

The only movie I ever saw at the Fox Theater in Fullerton was Star Wars, back in 1982 or maybe early 1983–Episode IV it’s called these days, but back then it was simply Star Wars. It was a re-release, a few months prior to the opening of Return of the Jedi, and one of the biggest treats of the screening was getting to see the trailer for the new film. This was before the internet, you see, almost before computers, even, and one could not simply download trailers in the comfort of your home; you had to go to the theater to experience that particular thrill of anticipation. It was also before video, or at least before Star Wars was on video, so this was the first chance I’d had to see the movie since its original release in 1978. I was in junior high, totally in love with Mark Hamill, and ergo not paying much attention to the venue. We sat in the balcony, which was cool, but I don’t remember much else about the theater itself from that single foray within.

In latter years, as my perspective matured, I’d peer wistfully into the courtyard whenever my footsteps took me past the gated entrance, marveling at the faded elegance, the profound connection to a past era it stirred within me. Face it, historic buildings are rare in Southern California, especially ones imbued with the kind of grandeur inherent in the Fox. It was easy to imagine myself back in the glory days of Hollywood, when going to the cinema was an event you actually dressed up for. While I recognized that the one-screen theater would have a hard time competing against modern cineplexes, it certainly deserved a better fate then the long, slow slide into disrepair and decrepitude.

Now Fullerton wants to tear down the theater and put up some apartments.

If you’ve never seen the theater, you may wonder what the big deal is. Here’s some info provided to me from a friend in the foundation:

  • It was built in 1925.
  • It was built by the same architects as Graumans Chinese and Egyption theatres.
  • It has several famous murals by the famouse 1920’s firm A.T. Heinsbergen Co.
  • Tour busses come from LA so see Fullerton’s murals. The Fox murals pre-date all others in town.
  • Most of the artwork is still intact but hidden behind a 1950’s interior decoration remodel.
  • Back before the mickey mouse club was on TV they had regional chapters. The Fox was the home of the North OC chapter.

If, like me, you think the Fox Theater should be saved, not just as a historical relic but as a potential community cultural center, then you need to visit the Fullteron Historic Theater Foundation web site to find out how you can help. The foundation has raised $2 milion in donations and matching pledges, but needs to raise $1.5 million dollars by November first, and they’re still far short of their goal. And once they save the theater from demolition, they’ll need another $3.5 million to renovate the theater.

Both the Register and the Times have covered the efforts to save the Fox (you’ll have to register to read these articles but it’s free). Pass the word: send your friends and neighbors to

2 Comments so far

  1. mrhooks (unregistered) on October 6th, 2004 @ 10:30 am

    Don’t know anything about the Fox Theater, but here’s what I remember about Star Wars: Star Wars (Episode IV, A New Hope, whatever) premiered in May? 1977. And of course the sequels were released three years apart, just as they are being done now with the current, much suckier trilogy (damn Lucas and his involvement with the screenplays, damn him to Hell).

    I don’t remember if the re-release was in late 1982 or early 1983, but I’m kinda leaning towards late 1982.

  2. free pass (unregistered) on November 14th, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

    Anyone know why I can’t enter a link here?

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