The Bakersfield Fox first opened its doors on December 25, 1930. The feature was "Just Imagine", starring El Brendel in a futuristic film about what life would be like in 1980. Also on the bill was a Mickey Mouse feature. The world's most famous cartoon character was only in his second year on the silver screen at the time.
The First Admission Prices
Loges - - - - 65¢
Orchestra - - - - 50¢
Balcony - - - - 35¢
Children under 12 - - - - 15¢
Its California Mission Style architecture, popular at the time, was designed by the famous architect Charles S. Lee. Built in 1930 by William Fox of Fox Theaters it was one of the finest and most elaborate "movie palaces" of its size built in California. The Fox is one of a kind and unparalleled in design and acoustics. From vaudeville through the age of the silver screen, the Fox Theater has been, and is, a work of art from another era to be enjoyed again and again, for generations to come.
It has been suggested that the Fox was one of the "crown jewels of the theater chain" when it opened. Fox's company owned larger theatres, but the local facility best depicted that era's art decor.
"More than a theater - more than a playhouse - the new Fox takes its place as a temple of entertainment without a peer."
The theater's architecture is ornate, as benefits a 1930's "movie palace", but there was clearly an attempt here to avoid the more frivolous atmosphere of some other theatres. It was built to be a serious center of civic life. The elaborate lobby is far larger than that which would normally be required for this size of theater. it was obviously built as a community gathering place - a center of evening activity in a lively downtown.
The atmosphere of the theater itself created and event. The theater was actually part of the performance.
It should be remembered that admission for combined movie and live performances was not inexpensive and that in its heyday "vaudeville" attracted serious performers as well as the comedians for which it is now often remembered.
"The superb new home of the finest programs that can be assembled for the delight of those who respond only to the best!"
At the Fox Theater, the Movietone News provided Bakersfield residents with their first glimpses of important events taking place all over the world.
The architectural profession regards remaining "movie palaces" as Land marks which should be saved. The original plans of the Bakersfield Fox Theater are now preserved by the UCLA Library.
The Bakersfield Fox is an excellent practical auditorium building. Acoustics were a primary consideration when it was constructed and the Fox has outstanding acoustical qualities. The lavish paintings in the auditorium were covered over after the earthquake but are probably basically intact and restorable. Not only was the auditorium interior ornate but the exceptionally large multilevel lobby area was magnificently appointed.
The Fox Theatre successfully served as a cultural and entertainment center from the time that it opened until after the end of the Second World War. As television took its toll at the box office, the Fox declined.
For more information about the Fox Theater please contact the Historic Preservation Commission:
Historic Preservation Commission
c/o Economic Development Department
515 Truxtun Avenue
Bakersfield, CA 93301