The Fox Theatre has a long and storied history in Atlanta, and in my family as well. I am just the most recent in my family to gaze up in wonder at the sparkling blue auditorium sky.
The Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre was built in the late 1920’s for Atlanta’s Shriners organization. Inspiration for the ornate mosque-style building was taken from palaces of the Far East. When the elaborate design became too costly for the organization to keep up with, they sold the building to William Fox, a movie mogul with an empire of “movie palaces” all over the country.
During the Great Depression, Fox declared bankruptcy on his namesake theater. The Fox returned to prominence in the 1940’s when its Egyptian Ballroom became the city’s most popular dance hall.
But by the 1970’s, the theater was in decline again. To save the building from demolition, Atlanta residents created a non-profit called Atlanta Landmarks that launched the “Save The Fox” campaign. The $3 million they raised went toward restoring and reopening the theater.
The building’s exterior, Grand Salon, mezzanine Gentlemen’s Lounge, and lower Ladies Lounge are all decorated with an Islamic theme, while the Egyptian Ballroom, mezzanine Ladies’ Lounge, and lower Gentlemen’s Lounge have an Egyptian theme. The 4,665-seat auditorium is set under an Arabian night sky, complete with flickering stars and passing clouds.
Life, Love, Popcorn
When my grandmother and grandfather first started dating, they went to a show at The Fox Theatre. My grandmother had to babysit her little brother, so he was tagging along on their date, being a nuisance I’m sure. After my grandfather bought him popcorn, little brother then walked into the theater, looked up at the ceiling, and dropped his popcorn all over the floor. He was completely mesmerized by the night sky scene and its twinkling stars.
My grandfather had to go back and get the poor kid more popcorn. At my grandfather’s funeral, instead of the customary handful of dirt, my grandmother’s little brother sprinkled popcorn on my grandfather’s grave, taking everyone by surprise. He said it was to pay my grandfather back for that extra popcorn he bought him so many years ago.
Under the Perpetual Night Sky
As a child, my father was not very good at piecing things together, apparently. Because when my grandfather took him to The Fox for the first time, my dad looked up at the theater’s sky and said, “Is it dark outside? I bet it’s dark outside.” Despite having entered the building from bright daylight, and despite my grandfather repeating that, no, it’s the middle of the day, still my dad insisted, “I bet it’s dark outside.”
No doubt my grandfather wondered how he kept finding himself in charge of young kids who couldn’t get over The Fox’s night sky.
And Now Me
I’ve been preparing to be amazed by The Fox since my grandfather’s funeral when I was nine. That was the first time I’d heard the story, though I must have heard it nearly a hundred times by now. Somehow, in all that time, I never even thought to look up pictures of the inside of The Fox. I guess I was waiting to see it in person.
Kevin and I had our own date night to The Fox to see the musical RENT. We sat in the lower level, under the balcony, which blocked my view of the sky until the intermission. When everyone else in the theater rushed out to the Grand Salon, Kevin and I pushed forward toward the stage.
The theater opened up to azure blue, sparkling stars, and whispy clouds. I didn’t have popcorn to drop, but I did have to stumble out of the way into the rows while I craned my head back to take it all in. I leaned in to Kevin and said, “Hey, I bet it’s dark outside.” And it was.
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What’s your favorite story from The Fox Theatre? Let me know in the comments!