Fox Theatre Detroit
Fox Theatre Detroit is a beautiful theatre in downtown Detroit, Michigan. Opened in 1928 as the flagship movie palace for the Fox Theatre Chain, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1988 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. The Fox has a capacity of 5,048 seats and plays host to many top shows and events.
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The Detroit Fox was built by film pioneer William Fox and is now the largest surviving movie palace of the 1920s and the largest of the Fox Theatres that were originally built. When The Fox opened it was the second largest theatre in the world and it took 18 months to build. It was the first theatre in the world to be made with built-in equipment for talking movies using “Movietone” which was The Fox Film Corporation’s patented sound-on-film system that allowed the theatre to show sound films from it’s opening onwards.
The gala opening on September 21, 1928 started with a performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” by the Fox Theatre Grand Orchestra, followed by “The Evolution of Transportation” which was a live show depicting the history of Detroit from the 1700’s to 1928. Then to showcase the built-in sound equipment for talking movies Fox Movietone news reel with sound was played, and lastly was the feature length silent film called ’’Street Angel’’ starring Janet Gaynor.
The Fox was designed by architect Charles Howard Crane, a Detroiter who designed 250 theatres in North America, 62 of those in the Detroit area. The theatre has a lavish interior with a blend of eastern motifs. The exterior has a 10-story marquee that overlooks Woodward Avenue. The stunning lobby covers half a block. The Fox was bought in 1987 by Olympia Entertainment, owned by Mike and Marion Ilitch and the building was fully restored to it’s former glory in 1988 at a cost of $12 million. Ray Shepardson who oversaw the restoration stated that “The Detroit Fox is the most spectacular, over-the-top movie palace ever built”.
The interior of the theatre is something to be experience just for its own sake. You enter into the outer foyer through the brass doors and make your way into the colossal grand lobby which covers 3,600 squre feet and rises six stories high. The main auditorium was designed by Eve Leo, the wife of William Fox (the movie mogul who owned hundreds of movie houses in the country of which the Fox Theatre in Detroit was the grandest) and features Egyptian, Indian and Oriental motifs, such as the elephant’s head in the center of the proscenium. The auditorium is 104 ft high and 175 ft wide and has 2,898 orchestra-level seats, with more on the upper level seating area.
As well as serving as Detroit’s premier movie house until the 1980’s, The Fox has a rich history of top class live productions and performances. In the 1930’s Shirley Temple made many appearences when the theatre featured her films. In May 1956 The Fox hosted three performances by Elvis Presley to a total audience of 12,500 screaming fans.
Many Motown artists performed on stage in the 1960’s, and from the early 60’s onwards Berry Gordy’s Motown Revue was an annual Christmas Tradtion lasting over the Christmas to New Year’s period with four or five performances every day featuring Detroit talent such as The Temptations, The Supremes and Smokey Robinson. The theatre showed many blaxploitation and martial arts films during this decade.
After the restoration, The Fox reopened in 1988 with Smokie Robinson and the Count Basie Orchestra. A year later Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli appeared in concert. Live productions have included Sesame Street Live, David Copperfield, Donny Osmond and Riverdance. Musicians and comedians to have graced the stage include Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Cher and Kanye West.
At present The Fox, which is also aptly known as the “Temple of Amusement” continues to serves as a premier entertainment venue in Detroit for concerts, comedy acts, musicals and other live productions.
Please note the following when attending the Fox Theatre Detroit:
- The theatre opens 60 minutes before the scheduled event and it is recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start as this allows time for security checks and for you to find your seats.
- Audio-visual equipment such as cameras are not permitted in the theatre, unless the artist has the preference to allow them. Please contact 313 471 3200 to find out if the event you are attending allows audio-visual equipment.
- Courteous security checks are carried out upon arrival which include walk-through metal detector and bag inspection.
- Prohibited items include weapons, aerosol cans, outside food and beverages, pocket knives and utility tools, laser light pointers, bottles and cans, large bags and coolers.
- For lost and found please contact 313 47 6490.
- Fire exits are indicated by the red lighted signs.
- Hearing aid devices are available on a first come first serve basis as a complimentary service. Drivers license or Picture I.D. is required.
- Please do not use cell phones in the auditorium.
- To contact a patron please contact 313 471 6490 with the name and seating location of the person you are trying to contact.
- First aid is available at every event.
- ATM’s are located in the main floor and mezzanine.
- Parking is available at the Fox Parking Structure with 1,100 parking spaces, including 32 handicapped parking spaces. The structure is located between Woodward Avenue and Park Street.
- Food and beverages are permitted in the auditorium for all events unless explicitly stated.
- Elevators to the mezzanine and galleries are located to the right of the grand lobby.
- Restrooms are located on lower level lounge areas for main floor patrons and for mezzanine and gallery patrons the left and right side of the theatre.
- Smoking is prohibited inside the theatre. There are designated smoking areas outside the building.