Spokane Symphony celebrates 90th anniversary of Fox Theater

<p><p>Ninety years ago, 30,000 people jammed the streets of Spokane as they awaited the grand opening of the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane.</p></p><p><p>The gala event hosted by top Fox executives included a number of movie stars including stars of the film, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor who greeted guests from the roof of the theater before watching the world premiere of “Merely Mary Ann.”</p></p><p><p>The Spokane Symphony held an open house at the Fox on Friday, the exact anniversary of the grand opening, dishing out free cake and letting the public take self-guided tours.</p></p><p><p>Built for the then-extravagant sum of $1 million as part of the theater empire of film mogul William Fox, the Fox Theater was considered “the theatrical center of the Inland Empire.”</p></p><p><p>“Early 1920s and 30s were the boom of Fox theaters all over the United States,” said Jim Kershner, author of The Sound of Spokane, A History of the Spokane’s Symphony. “Although Spokane was smaller in proportion to other cities, the rise of population and local demand made it a desirable place for a theater to be built.”</p></p><p><p>It took a couple years to fully launch the theater due to the hard times the 1929 stock market crash brought forth. When finished, the Art Deco design building boasted 2,300 seats.</p></p><p><p>Inside, murals depicting underwater world of sea plants, elegant light panels crafted with etched glass, and hand-painted artwork wowed visitors. Even during the prosperity of elaborate movie palaces, the Fox stood out using aluminum and glass instead of traditional marble and wood. At the time The Spokesman-Review called the architectural style “so unusual, so bizarre and so futuristic that the casual passerby catches his breath in surprise and wonder.”</p></p><p><p>Aside from artistic appearances, the Fox brought innovation into Spokane, being the first air-conditioned building in the city.</p></p><p><p>Serving as Spokane’s main concert hall for most of the 1900s, the theater went into a long, slow decline with the rise of multiplex cinemas. The theater changed hands several times over the years until the Spokane Symphony purchased the venue in 2000 with the help of local donors. It reopened as the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox in 2007.</p></p><p><p>“Many city orchestras do not have their own hall” James Lowe, the orchestra director said. “For us, it symbolizes a symbiotic relationship between the hall and the orchestra.”</p></p>