17 W Congress St

Fox Theater (10/29)

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Fox Theater…17 W. Congress Street

On August 24, 1929, construction began on the Fox Theatre. It was to be called the Tower Theatre as it was meant to be the crown jewel in the Diamos Brothers Lyric Amusement chain of theatres built throughout Southern Arizona. However, by late September of the same year, the Fox West Coast Theatre chain had acquired the property along with the rest of the Lyric chain, and the Tower became the Fox.

Originally budgeted at $200,000, the theatre would eventually cost $300,000 including furnishings. Designed as a dual vaudeville/movie house, the Fox featured a stage, full fly-loft, and dressing rooms beneath the stage. However, the combined effects of “talkies” and the Depression limited the opportunities for live performances, and the dressing rooms were never completed.

Opening night, April 11, 1930, was the biggest party the small community of Tucson had ever seen. Free trolley rides downtown brought crowds who found Congress Street closed to traffic and waxed for dancing to four live bands and a live radio broadcast. The party was not to be missed! Those lucky enough to have purchased tickets in advance, 3,000 or so people enjoyed the show inside as well as out. The film “Chasing Rainbows,” a MovieTone short, and a Mickey Mouse cartoon were well received and the Fox Theatre began its 40-­year life as the center of Tucson’s entertainment world.

By 1974, competition from other venues, drive-ins and television conspired to end the run of popularity the Fox had enjoyed. Partial remodels of the theatre left it with most of its original charm, but vanishing retail and downtown housing brought the Fox to an end.

Although subsequent efforts to revive the theatre were unsuccessful, the property was somehow spared the wrecking ball. Though hidden from public view for more than 26 years, the grand theatre was not forgotten by its former patrons. Following a huge cooperative effort by the citizens of Tucson and the City of Tucson, the newly remodeled Fox Theatre is once again a vital destination for entertainment in Downtown Tucson. This $14.5 million restoration project, spanning 1999 to 2006, was funded in significant part by Rio Nuevo. Today the Theatre hosts approximately 160 events per year.

Continue to Church St. and look toward the SW corner