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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Fox celebrates 85th birthday

    Courtesy of the Fox Tucson Theatre FoundationThe Fox Tucson Theatre on its opening night on April 11, 1930. The theater celebrates its 85th anniversary this weekend with several events.

    Courtesy of the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation

    The Fox Tucson Theatre on its opening night on April 11, 1930. The theater celebrates its 85th anniversary this weekend with several events.

    For nearly a century, the Fox Tucson Theatre has been a staple of downtown life in Tucson, and this weekend the historic theater is celebrating its 85 years as a Tucson landmark with a gigantic double-event birthday party.

    Encompassing all the types of events that Fox Theatre is famous for, the celebration includes a live performance and two screenings of a classic film, all free to the public. The festivities begin on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with local band Five Way Street and its British Invasion Tribute Show. The band will be performing hits from British bands of the 1960s, a period when groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who were hopping the pond and spreading like wildfire throughout the American music scene.

    Five Way Street has been said to be a band that connects well with its audience and the Tucson community, and the set list is full of songs that have crossed both generations and the Atlantic so everyone will have a chance to sing along to something they recognize. 

    The celebration continues on Sunday with the timeless “The Wizard of Oz” showing at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The classic story of Dorothy Gale and her journey through the magical Land of Oz in search of a way home is one that has become a universal part of film culture. Film showings were the main purpose of the original theater, and it is optimized for this with its 1,200 audience seats and high-quality acoustics. Watching “The Wizard of Oz” may be enjoyable on your television at home, but the experience is completely different in the Fox Tucson Theatre atmosphere, according to Laurel Islas.

    “When you’re in [the Fox] it’s almost like going back in time,” said Islas, owner of ProVentures, the marketing agency of record for Fox Tucson Theatre. “You see the movie the way that the director had planned it in terms of color and sound and excitement.”

    There will even be birthday cake served after the screenings for the audience.

    The Fox team wanted to choose a film that was family-friendly that everyone could enjoy to involve as much of the community as possible in the celebration. 

    The Fox has always been known for bringing the Tucson community together. On opening day, April 11, 1930, downtown became a gigantic party in honor of the theater. According to the Fox Tucson Theatre’s historic page on its website, Congress Street was closed down and waxed for dancing, several bands performed, there was a live radio broadcast and free trolley rides were taking people all over downtown. For decades after it debuted that night, the Fox Tucson Theatre was known as the “Crown Jewel” of downtown and was the hub of entertainment in the slowly growing city. 

    “When the Fox was built, Tucson had about 30,000 people and dirt streets,” said Craig Sumberg, the executive director of the Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation. “Building something as elegant and beautiful as the [Fox Tucson Theatre] was a real statement to the locals that Tucson had arrived.” 

    The theater brought business to the town and became a sort of anchor for the area at an economic standpoint; people were drawn to the Fox for film and entertainment and would stay in the area and become patrons of the various shops and restaurants populating downtown. 

    “There’s always been a need for a vital city-center where people can come and enjoy community,” Islas said.

    As Tucson began expanding in the ’60s and ’70s, more shopping centers and entertainment venues were being built farther away from downtown, which caused the businesses in the area to suffer, including the Fox. In 1974, the Fox Tucson Theatre closed due to the lack of funds, and the historic theatre sat vacant for 25 years. 

    Finally, in 1999, a group of citizens came together and decided to resurrect the once iconic art theatre. The group, known as the nonprofit Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation, went through six years of intense restoration and finally reopened the theater doors on New Year’s Eve 2006. 

    Since then, the theater has once again returned to its former glory as an entertainment hotspot and has supported the revival of the downtown area with a variety of live performances and films always on the schedule.

    So grab a party hat, some friends and family, and sing “Happy Birthday” to downtown Tucson’s “Crown Jewel” with live music, classic film and a great community.


    Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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