Tucson’s Art Deco Star – The Fox Theatre

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Architect M. Eugene Durfee’s Fox Theater is a bit understated on the outside but not on the inside!

Tucson, Arizona is home to half a million people. Add the surrounding metro area and it’s closer to a million. So it’s not a huge surprise a city this size has an Art Deco theatre. But in 1929, when plans were drawn up for the Tucson Fox there were only 32,000 residents. If one of every 25 people in Tucson showed up, they all would get one of the theatre’s 1300 seats.

The builder, Nicholas Diamos of the Lyric Amusement theater chain must have seen Tucson’s potential. But he wasn’t alone. Fox West Coast Theaters had arrived at the same conclusion, informing Mr. Diamos that he would either (a) sell the theatre to Fox or (b) Fox would build a bigger, more spectacular theater across the street.

Wisely, Diamos chose option “b”. His theatre, formally called the Tower, opened as the Fox on April 11, 1930. Opening night was huge. Tucson had never seen anything like the Fox before. The movie was Chasing Rainbows and the Fox’s southwestern Art Deco style was a hit. Even today, the place is striking and totally unique in Tucson. A true Art Deco palace in a place where frankly, you wouldn’t expect to find one.

 

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Lovely southwestern Deco color scheme

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As you would expect, there are lots of great, small details.

 

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A section of the proscenium.

 

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In Tucson, this is how small town America went to the movies.

 

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Alas, you can’t stand directly beneath the chandelier as this space is occupied by sound equipment.

 

The rest of the story will be familiar but I’ll tell it anyway. In the 1960s-70s the Fox went into decline as people went to the multiplex or just stayed home and watched TV. In 1974, the Fox closed and sat vacant until 2000 when it was purchased by the nonprofit Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation. Restoration began, proceeding as funding allowed. The restored Tucson Fox reopened on December 31, 2005 as a performing arts center.

I recently had the chance to spend a couple hours in the Fox. I could easily have spent more but these should give you an idea of what it’s like.

 

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Renowned for it’s acoustics, the Fox attracts world-class acts including Pat Metheny, Bela Fleck, Lindsey Buckingham and the Gypsy Kings.

 

 

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