Since 1928, the Fox Theatre in Atlanta has been host to can’t miss events. Visiting the Fox Theatre is a must when you’re in the Atlanta area, but you’ll enjoy this attraction much more if you know the history behind it.
The Fox Theatre was conceived originally to serve as the home of the Shriners organization, which is a national fraternal organization that’s considered to be a subgroup of the Masons.
Desiring a headquarters befitting their stature, the Shriners looked towards ancient temples and architectural gems from days-gone-by. The plan for the Shriner incorporated elements from the Temple of Kharnak in Egypt and the Alhambra in Spain, which meant that the inside and outside of the building were both majestic. Much of the design was based on middle-eastern influences, and in fact the Shriners held a design contest and chose an Arabian theme conceived of by a local architecture firm that resembled a mosque.
There was just one problem: creating the elaborate and ornate design proved to be more financially burdensome than the Shriners had expected. After all, the design incorporated things like gold leaf and trompe l’oeil art, and all of that comes at a big price. To solve their financial woes caused by their grand designs, the Shriners leased the auditorium they’d conceived of to a movie mogul named William Fox.
Fox had played an integral role in making trips to the movies a magical experience, creating movie palaces that served as the centerpiece of communities by the end of the 1920’s. Fox worked with the Shriners and provided financial backing to pay for the construction of Fox Theatre. No expense was spared and, in fact, around $3 million was poured into the project. While that may not seem like much, keep in mind that once adjusted for inflation, that’s the equivalent of around $40 million. With money like that, you better believe that the Fox Theatre was a masterpiece.
Fox Theatre first opened in 1929 with a Christmas day premiere of Steamboat Willie, the first Disney cartoon to star the iconic Micky Mouse. The theatre also featured the world’s largest Möller theatre organ, and this 3,622 pipe organ remains the largest in this world even to this day.
While Fox Theatre grew popular as word spread, the Great Depression led to a forced bankruptcy in 1932 and the theatre was auctioned off on the courthouse steps where a private company purchased it for only $75,000. The bankruptcy happened just 125 weeks after the iconic theatre opened.
While Fox no longer owned it, the theatre kept its name and over three decades, hundreds of films and live performances attracted visitors from across the country. Fox Theatre also became well known as a top dance destination during the Big Band era when swing was king throughout the country.
Today, Fox Theatre remains one of the largest movie theatres that was ever built. It spans 250,000 square feet and it remains a popular tourist attraction for those in the Atlanta area.