“This Gem of Our History was Part of Our Lives”
By Kathy McLoed
Whether you are an avid cinema buff, an historian of fine architecture, grew up in the Depression era or the fun-filled 50s; or were lucky enough to experience the South Bay’s “surfin’ 60s”, Redondo’s Fox Theater was not only an integral part of our City’s history but perhaps a part of your own personal history as well. The Fox Theater – you can’t help but pause, reflect and smile when you think of this grand old dame. Memories of old Vaudeville acts, going to the Merry Ol’ Land of Oz with Dorothy and the Munchkins, peeking through your trembling hands at the terrifying Frankenstein movie. The Fox satisfied the delight of many for three decades. Even Universal Studios can’t replicate the fear of hearing (sometimes actually feeling) the pounding surf of Redondo’s waters during Hitchcock’s The Birds.
The Fox Theater was located at 300 Diamond Street. (the original site of the 600-seat Art Theater; circa 1913-28). This stately structure was designed by architect J.P. (John Paxton) Perrine in a combination Art-Deco and Spanish-Colonial style. The Fox opened in February 1929 with an early William Fox “talking picture” entitled The Ghost Talks starring Helen Twelvetrees. Five acts of vaudeville and Lynn Cowna’s 10-piece orchestra interjected a wonderful mixture of dance, music and comedy. During intermissions, there were contests where kids eagerly awaited their chance of holding the winning ticket to a brand new bicycle. During the 1940’s, it was common for men and women to dress in their best attire to attend the theater with most men in suits and ties. Adult tickets sold for 25 cents, children would get in for 7 cents. Popcorn cost a dime (with 5-cents added for butter).
The Fox, compared to today’s standards, was an integral draw to the City’s waterfront entertainment district.. Taking its place alongside the Pier, bowling alley, skating rink and penny arcade, the Fox was a major draw for residents and visitors alike. The Del Mar Cleaners was located across the street, the Del Mar Hotel above and the Del Mar Liquor Store next door.
The 1324 seat theater featured a large, single screen and balcony. Hand-painted wall murals and drop curtains graced its interior and added a beautifully ornate backdrop to the grand pipe organ and center stage. Outside, the Fox’s brightly-lit marquee invited all in to watch its lively acts, feature movies, newsreel shorts, live surf bands and more.
The Fox was slated for a remodel during the late 1930s, at which time, architect, S. Charles Lee presented two concepts. Both concepts represented the Streamline Moderne style that was symbolic of the American Dream – fast, forward and sleek. The remodel took place 1937-39; but it is unknown whether the building was executed to Lee’s design.
Redondo’s Fox Theater was demolished in the early 1970’s when Mann Theaters purchased the property and subsequently sold it to the City to make way for Pier upgrades and development. The last movie to play? A double-feature – Woodstock and Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
To this day, the Fox is held in high regard by those who were honored enough to experience this beacon of entertainment first-hand. What fun-filled history the Fox gave our City – what joy the Fox gave us!
Read Joy Durment’s rememberances of the fun times at the Fox Theater
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