A small history of early theatre palaces in the United States which includes the Historic Hanford Fox Theatre, one of the few remaining still in operation and fully restored to its 1929 elegance.
No buildings in America have been, collectively, as audaciously romantic, blatantly derivative, and wonderfully original as the movie palaces. The majority of these palaces were built during the years between World War I and the Great Depression. Nationwide, even the smallest towns could boast regally outfitted movie houses. The theaters ranged in style from bewilderingly eclectic to near-perfect replicas of the finest royal palaces of Europe and the Orient. The patrons were not always aware of the decorations' origins, but they flocked to see whatever spectacular arrangements the palaces architects dreamed up.
Moviegoers in the 30's and 40's were able to witness happenings from all over the world. Lacking the immediacy of television and radio in it's infancy, the significance of the movie palace is difficult to appreciate. More than just the primary source of entertainment, the theaters were the local gathering spots, the centers of downtown night life. Integrating all classes and levels of society. The movies provided a release for the increasing pressures of a world growing more hectic by the day. A ticket to a show was a passport to lives and cultures otherwise beyond reach. No form of entertainment had ever been as accessible or as popular.
Even in Hanford, front page coverage of the December 1929 Grand Opening of The Fox dominated the Christmas holiday news. Built by William Fox of Fox Theaters in 1929, and one of 900+ across the United States, the Hanford Fox Theatre is designed as an atmospheric theatre. This type of theatre, as opposed to the ornate or art deco style, is designed to create the illusion of being located in a romantic far-off place. The locale is a Spanish courtyard, complete with twinkling stars and crescent moon in a dark night sky. There are tile covered buildings with lighted windows, balconies and turrets, silhouetted and backlighted by the glow of a village beyond. In the shadows rise mountains covered with cypress and palm trees. Greco-Roman columns support the proscenium. Further back are Mediteranian and Spanish renaissance influences, but the over all decor is Mission Revival. Very eclectic, yet appropriate
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