The Fox Theatre has been a driving force in Atlanta‘s and Georgia’s cultural scene for the past 90 years. The theater industry has been built on the backs of many successful predecessors.
The Fox Theatre’s origin story is as unique as the venue itself: it started out as a movie theater. The Fox was envisioned as a building in 1928 to house the Atlanta Shriners. The Shriners wanted a home worthy of their high social standing, so they drew inspiration for a mosque-style building from the ancient temples of the Far East.
The building’s intricate and complex architecture was inspired by historic marvels such as the Alhambra in Spain and the Temple of Kharnak in Egypt. The façade was a riot of domes, minarets, and arches, while the interior was a riot of gold leaf embellishments, luxurious tapestries, and superb trompe l’oeil art (art using genuine imagery to create optical illusions).
The concept ended up being too extravagant and expensive for the Shriners to manage. Before it was even finished, movie magnate William Fox rented the Shriners’ grand auditorium to satisfy the nation’s growing appetite for the new form of entertainment that was sweeping the globe: motion pictures.
Fox’s financing allowed the 250,000-square-foot Fox Theatre to be built, and its 3,622-pipe Möller organ, known as “Mighty Mo,” is still the largest in the world. Disney’s first Mickey Mouse animation, Steamboat Willie, premiered on Christmas Day, 1929, at the Fox to a sold-out crowd.
The news of the spectacular new Fox Theatre immediately traveled throughout the city. Its red carpet entrance and exquisite gilded work, soaring turreted ceilings and stained glass windows, and enormous cobalt “sky” with a sea of glittering stars set the tone for the glitzy plays that drew in the crowds.
The Great Depression had far-reaching ramifications, and not even Fox’s grandeur could save it. After declaring bankruptcy in 1932, William Fox was unable to save his eponymous movie theater. Even when Mr. Fox’s bankruptcy procedures resulted in the auctioning off of the Fox to a private corporation for the low, low price of $75,000, the theater remained a fan favorite among Atlanta’s moviegoers.
For the following three decades, the Fox was Atlanta’s most popular dance hall, screening hundreds of critically acclaimed films, presenting live performances by everyone from the Metropolitan Opera Company to pop legends like Nelson Eddy, and more.
Tours of the Fox Theatre are available for those who want to learn more about the Fox’s rich history or who simply want to get a better look at the stunning structure. Tours go for 60 minutes and are led by passionate Fox personnel who love sharing the theater’s fascinating history and giving guests an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes of Atlanta’s most beloved venue.
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