The Fox Theater in Spokane opens on September 3, 1931.

  • By Eric L. Flom
  • Posted 2/22/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5269

On September 3, 1931, Spokane's Fox Theater at 1005 W Sprague debuts to a sold-out crowd of 2,300 patrons.  Outside, a crowd estimated to be as large as 20,000 jams the streets in hopes of catching a glimpse of movie stars George O’Brien, Anita Page, and child performer “Little Mitzi” Green, all of whom traveled from Hollywood to attend the event.  The Fox opened showing the feature film Merely Mary Ann, starring the onscreen romantic pair of Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. 

The Fox was built by Fox West Coast Theatres for approximately $1 million, and was the work of renowned architect Robert C. Reamer, who had also designed Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre (opened in 1926) and Bellingham’s Mt. Baker Theatre (1927).  With an Art Deco flair typical of movie houses from that period, today the Fox may very well be the only remaining example north of San Francisco of a large Art Deco theater.

The Fox presented motion pictures almost exclusively until 1968, when it began augmenting its schedule with concert dates by the Spokane Symphony.  These musical interludes continued until 1975, the same year the Fox was split into three separate screens, an effort make it more competitive with Spokane’s newer movie theaters.   

The last movie at the house – Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe – was shown in September 2000.  Fortunately, the Fox was never in danger of shutting down for good.  In fact, it was the former tenants who gave the venue a new lease on life: The Spokane Symphony purchased the Fox for $1.2 million and began renovations to make it their new (and permanent) concert facility.   

The restored Fox Theater reopened as the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox with a gala concert on November 17, 2007. The restored theater will be barred from screening motion pictures until at least 2020, in keeping with the sales agreement between the Symphony and the prior owner of the Fox, Regal Cinemas.


Sources: “Fox Theatre -- Spokane,” Puget Sound Pipeline Online website (http://www.postos.org/instruments/wa/spokane/fox.htm); Ross Melnick & Suzanne Fritz, “Fox Theater -- Spokane, WA," Cinema Treasures website, (http://www.cinematreasures.org/theaters/viewer.php?id=862); “The Fox Theater,” Spokane Symphony website, (http://www.spokanesymphony.org/thefox.asp?Loc=thefox).
Note: This essay was updated on August 27, 2008.

Related Topics:   Buildings | Film | Music & Musicians

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