Fox Theatre, Atlanta 2017
Photograph by Reid Callaway (July 25th, 2017)

Fox Theatre is an iconic attraction for fine arts enthusiasts in Atlanta and is seen as a cultural icon. The Fox is one of the best theatres in the world and hosts more than 150 performances a year. Many Atlantans see Fox Theatre as an integral part of their city’s history with its extravagant ballrooms and artistic entertainment. However, despite its success, Fox Theatre has not always been the cultural icon that it is now and has been faced with several challenges and new ownerships. Thankfully, Fox theatre is still standing today because of concerned Atlantans fighting to preserve the theatre’s symbol. Taking a look back into the wild history of Fox Theatre will help us understand its importance to Atlanta and the beauty of fine arts.

Sanborn Map of Fox Theatre
Corner of Ponce De Leon Ave. N.E. and Peachtree Street N.E.,
Atlanta 1924-Mar. 1962 vol. 2, 1932-July 1950, Sheet 217,
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

Originally constructed in 1928 as a headquarters for Atlanta’s Yaarab Temple Shriners organization, the building’s architecture serves as a prominent example of their social status [9]. Much of the design is based on ancient temples in the far east such as the Alhambra palace in Spain and Egypt’s Temple of Kharnak [8]. The Shriners organization not only used this location as their headquarters but also as a shrine mosque. However, climbing construction costs due to the design forced the group to find a tenant for the building’s auditorium. William Fox, a film executive agreed to lease the theatre from the Shriners which allowed them to complete construction. The total cost of the project was more than $3 million and is around the building takes up 250,000 square feet.

Article from a 1984 Atlanta Constitution Newspaper [3]

Fox Theatre opened on December 31, 1929, and was met with a sold-out crowd viewing Steamboat Willie, Disney’s first cartoon starring Mickey Mouse. The theatre’s popularity skyrocketed thanks to its grandeur and exotic architecture along with “Mighty Mo” the largest Möller theatre organ in the world [6]. Fox’s massive success helped bring in old and new fine arts enjoyers to Atlanta which boosted its economy. Many famous performers and musicians would come to play at Fox Theatre such as Elvis Presley, Virgil Fox, and Frank Sinatra [3]. Other events such as the “Beach Night” performance by Fanchon and Marco and the live-action “Song of the South” is what made Fox the most popular and successful theater in Atlanta.

Fox Theatre in 1962, Photograph from

However, despite the theatre’s early successes, the effects of the Great Depression forced theatre owner William Fox to declare bankruptcy and lose the iconic movie palace. Residents of Atlanta were sad to see the theatre go but they also were suffering from the Depression so not much could be done by them. A few years later, Fox theatre was eventually bought by a private company for a measly $75,000 which helped it remain a favorite attraction for Atlanta’s moviegoers. Fast forward to the late 1960s, many Atlantans began to move away from the city and into the suburbs, during these times many people preferred going to suburban movie plexes which had a more modern feel [9]. As Fox began to lose its customers the theatre was forced to close for a second time with uncertainty for its future.

Fox Theatre Stage
Photograph from the Georgia Tech Bioinformatics Graduate Program website

However, dedicated fine arts enjoying residents of Atlanta did not want to lose this important landmark in their city and started a non-profit organization called Atlanta Landmarks and launched the “Save The Fox” campaign. One of the founding members of the group was Beauchamp Carr, a native Atlantan who grew up going to the fox at just 10 years old. The organization’s goal was to raise funds to save the Fox Theatre from foreclosure [5]. In order to save Fox Theatre, Carre and the group members hosted numerous events including concerts, donation campaigns, and even penny collecting [9]. To everyone’s surprise, the campaign was a huge success with a total raised amount of $3 million, with the vast majority of funds from personal Atlanta residents intent on rescuing this stunning structure. As a result of their efforts, Fox Theatre reopened in 1975 and is currently run by Atlanta Landmarks who renamed themselves Fox Theatre Incorporated [4].

Fox Theatre Performance
Photo by from Alive Coverage Photography group

Fox Theatre is now an iconic attraction in Atlanta to all fine arts enthusiasts and movie lovers. Each year, the award-winning theatre hosts more than 250 shows and half a million visitors for its extravagant shows [1]. Fox Theatre Inc. continues its mission to preserve Atlanta’s cultural icons by launching the FTI in 2008. The Fox Theatre Insititute provides essential technical, historical, and organizational support and education to theatres across the country [8]. Fox Theatre has won multiple awards, ranks in the top three theatres in North America, and has made clear that this time, it is here to stay.

[1] Cone, John W., and Dana G. Robinson. “The power of e-performance.” T AND D 55.8 (2001): 32-41.


[3] Frank Sinatra to play fox theatre June 1. (1984, Apr 27). The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984)

[4] Joyce, F. S. (1975, Jan 03). The box office is closed: The fox theater is dead! The Atlanta Constitution (1946-1984)

[5] LoPresti, Maryellen. “NATIONAL HISTORICAL LANDMARK THREATENED” SAVE THE FOX”.” ARLIS/NA Newsletter 2.6 (1974): 82-82.

[6] McCall Jr, John Clark. “Save the Fox.” Theatre Organ: Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society 16.5 (1974): 5-8.

[7] McCall Jr, John Clark. “Atlanta Fox.” Theatre Organ: Journal of the American Theatre Organ Society 17.6 (1975): 4-7.

[8] “SAVE THE FOX”. (1974, Jul 25). Atlanta Daily World (1932).

[9] Theatre, Fox. “Fox History/Story | Fox Theatre.”

[10] Zarafonetis, Michael James. The ‘Fabulous’ fox theatre and Atlanta, 1929–1975. Auburn University, 2010.