It’s not over until the Fox Theater sings – Serving the Fullerton Community Since 1922

Insightful Fullerton residents may have noticed the recently illuminated Fox Theater sign, displayed in all its nostalgic glory. The chain link fence still guards the yard and access to the building remains closed to the public, but there is a buzz in the air that the building may soon be restored. The buzz is intentional.

The Fox Theater still has a long way to go before it can open to the public, but a lot of progress has been made. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

Steve Forry, the newest member of the Fullerton Historic Theater Foundation and executive director of the board, said: “I want people to know that this is a living building, that it is not. not dead.

It’s a reminder that in a city steeped in history, there is perhaps no more iconic building than the Fox Theater. The building was not dead, but it was near it, and it has been a long way to come back to life.

Originally named The Alician Court Theater, in honor of C. Stanley Chapman’s wife, Alice Ellen Chapman, has faced challenges throughout its history. Two months after C. Stanley and Alice Ellen Chapman opened the new theater in 1923, a local car salesman named Eddie Backs erected an “unsightly” tin shed on Spadra Rd, which is now Harbor Blvd, prompting Chapman to stop construction on the theater.

The residents of Fullerton protested the structure and three days later Backs assured the public that the tin structure was only temporary and construction resumed. Even though this was the first time the citizens of Fullerton had come together to support the theater. It wouldn’t be the last.

C. Stanley Chapman in black stands in the middle of the dedication ceremony for what would become the Fox Theater.  His wife Alice Ellen Chapman holds the shovel.

With the used car salesman’s problems in the rearview mirror, construction accelerated and on May 28, 1925, Chapman’s Alician Court Theater opened to a full house. Guests were treated to entertainment, including vaudeville acts and the silent film Dick Turpin, starring Tom Mix.

Almost 100 years later, the history of the Fox Theater has developed in a way C. Stanley and Alice Ellen Chapman probably never imagined. It had four name changes, several different owners and in 1987 was closed and left for dead.

The Fox Theater circa 1983.

The Fox Theater changed ownership 4 times and was abandoned in 1987. Photo credit: courtesy of the Local History Room, Fullerton Public Library

Thanks to the strength of the community and the Fullerton Historic Theater Foundation, which formed in 2001 and acquired the building in 2004. The Fox Theater has managed to survive. Today, the foundation continues the mission. The aim is to prepare the theater for a grand reopening on its centenary in 2025.

Forry envisions a roaring twenties theme and red carpet treatment for each guest. Making this a reality will take more than just hard work. It requires fundraising.

“The basis of successful fundraising is community engagement,” said Forry.

The more advanced the catering, the more the theater can organize fundraising events. This is an impetus that the foundation thinks it will be able to seize soon.

The foundation hopes to innovate in what it calls phase II of the restoration.

“Over the years, we have been able to carry out the seismic modernization, we have installed all the sprinklers. A lot of the big structural work has been done in the first phase, the second it will be enough for us to open the doors so that we can organize more events, ”said Chairman of the Board, Brian Newell.

It remains to be seen if the restoration will be complete by 2025, but regardless of when the theater is finally restored, it will be a special place for the community. There is a future where a person could attend a rock concert on Friday night, a comedy show on Saturday, and a classic movie on Sunday. All at the Fox Theater.

Current state of the interior of the Fox Theater.

Most of the structural work is being finished inside. Once completed, they can start working on Phase II of the project. Photo credit: Dustin Malek

It has been a long and strange journey for the Fox Theater, but one that the foundation is committed to taking to the finish line.

“You start to worry when you’re in an empty place like this year after year, are we making a difference, are we going to do something about it, are people going to care when we’re done? with that and the answer is, they will, Newell said.

Dustin Malek (He / Him) is a journalism student residing in Fullerton, California. In his spare time he enjoys hiking and biking in the city.

Author: Dustin Malek

Dustin Malek (He / Him) is a journalism student residing in Fullerton, California. In his spare time he enjoys hiking and biking in the city.

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