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Fox Performing Arts Center
Riverside, California 92501
- Year(s)/Era: Spanish Colonial Revival architecture
- Type of Place: Building, Structure
- Nomination: The historic theater was shuttered for many years in the late 1990s, until its revitalization period, which spanned 2004 to 2010, when the City of Riverside purchased, renovated, and subsequently reopened the venue. As a municipally-owned theater, the Fox belongs to the community! It is managed by theater operator Live Nation under the branding Riverside Live, with great economic benefits to our region from a broad spectrum of shows and big ticket events.
The Fox Performing Arts Center is a crown jewel in our flourishing regional cultural community, where entertainment and enrichment opportunities are many, easily accessible to the public, and of premier quality.
- Most notable attribute(s): The Riverside Theater’s opening movie, shown on June 11, 1929, was White Shadows in the South Seas, starring Monte Blue and Raquel Torres. Blue, a film star of that era, appeared in person to meet and greet those in attendance, and discuss the film.
About a decade later, On September 9, 1939, the Fox made its mark in Hollywood history when it held the very first public screening of the classic movie, Gone With the Wind. As the story goes:
On September 9, 1939, Selznick, his wife, Irene, investor John “Jock” Whitney and film editor Hal Kern drove out to Riverside, California to preview it at the Fox Theatre. The film was still a rough cut at this stage, missing completed titles and lacking special optical effects. It ran for four hours and twenty-five minutes, but would later be cut down to under four hours for its proper release. A double bill of Hawaiian Nights and Beau Geste was playing, and after the first feature it was announced that the theater would be screening a preview; the audience were informed they could leave but would not be readmitted once the film had begun, nor would phone calls be allowed once the theater had been sealed. When the title appeared on the screen the audience cheered, and after it had finished it received a standing ovation. In his biography of Selznick, David Thomson wrote that the audience’s response before the film had even started “was the greatest moment of [Selznick’s] life, the greatest victory and redemption of all his failings”, with Selznick describing the preview cards as “probably the most amazing any picture has ever had.” When Selznick was asked by the press in early September how he felt about the film, he said: “At noon I think it’s divine, at midnight I think it’s lousy. Sometimes I think it’s the greatest picture ever made. But if it’s only a great picture, I’ll still be satisfied.”
- Special designations or recognitions: Landmark of the City of Riverside #39
- Three words to describe: Welcoming, Memorable, Gift
- Anything else to share? During World War II, the building served as a makeshift dormitory, after the soldiers from the nearby military bases filled the region’s available sleeping spaces.
Manager Roy Hunt allowed the soldiers to sleep on the thick carpets of the lobby and auditorium.
In 1942, the Fox Theater converted its stage and surrounding dressing rooms into a 536-person secondary theater named the “Lido,” which served as a “second-run” film house for headline pictures. Alterations and additions to the original design included the small secondary theater in the former stage house, alterations to the proscenium and various new sound absorption finishes in the auditorium.
City of Riverside
Riverside, California 92522