In the San Francisco Bay Area, three movie palaces have bravely persevered against financial woes and the wrecking ball and remain in business to this day: Palo Alto’s ornate yet intimate Stanford Theater, San Francisco’s grand, cavernous Castro Theater and Oakland’s art deco beauty, the Paramount. A sadder fate befell San Francisco’s Fox Theater, a 4,651-seat structure designed by architect Thomas Lamb that opened in the late 1920s.
Located on Market Street near Civic Center, the Fox was built by movie mogul William Fox of Fox Film Corporation to be the last word in movie palaces, with a proposed 1,000-room luxury hotel attached to the site. The hotel never got off the ground, but the theater opened on June 28, 1929 with the premiere of Behind That Curtain (1929), starring E.L. Park as Charlie Chan. A gilded rococo lobby featuring a grand staircase greeted visitors to the Fox; lavish stage shows, a full orchestra and a 4,000-pipe Wurlitzer organ counted among its amenities.
A steady decline in business in the 1950s led to a few last-ditch efforts—including midnight organ concerts—to keep the venue open. By the early 1960s, business had failed to turn around and, on February 18, 1963. the Fox Theater was shuttered for good and demolished shortly thereafter.
Below is a video of its demolition along with a few photos of the theater in various states of existence. Check out the nifty little website historigraphics.com for more information on San Francisco’s lost gem.