Bringing Back the INGLEWOOD FOX THEATRE
Anne Cheek La Rose
Built in 1949 on the site of the Granada Theatre, the Inglewood Fox was the last theatre constructed by the Fox West Coast Theatre chain. The Fox hosted premieres, previews, and was a first-run movie house. Built for $400,000 and considered the ‘truly perfect theatre’, it was also the outstanding new building constructed on Market Street during the Post-War period. Some of the things that made the Fox outstanding: air conditioning, assistance for the hearing impaired, state of the art sound system, automatic opening lobby doors, and a soundproof ‘Crying Room’ for mothers with small children. The Fox, closed since 1988, the last Inglewood theatre to close, and is in a remarkable state of preservation due to experiencing heavy use only during its first 20 years.
Fast forward to 2009 when the Inglewood Historic Site Preservation Committee, fresh from their triumph of restoring the Depression-era “History of Transportation” mural, decided to save what they believed to be the most endangered property in town.
Partnering in this quest is the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation (LAHTF). The Committee became the Inglewood Historic Preservation Alliance (IHPA) in 2012. Together, these two non-profits launched a campaign to raise awareness to “Save the FOX”. Through a series of events in Inglewood, information on the LAHTF website and Facebook page, and other publicity, IHPA was able to persuade the city in 2010, to make an offer to buy the Fox with Redevelopment funds. The purchase offer was rejected.
Saddened but undaunted, IHPA decided to make application for the Inglewood Fox to be included on the National Register of Historic Places. The in-depth application took more than two years to complete. The application was submitted to the State of California Office of Historic Preservation. In November of 2012, the State and gave their approval for state historic status and forwarded the application to the National Register with their recommendation to approve.
On 14 January 2013, the Inglewood Fox was included on the National Register of Historic Places, becoming the first property on Market Street to achieve this milestone and only the second in the city (the other is the Centinela Adobe). In December of 2012, IHPA opened discussions with the Fox owners in hopes of creating a partnership to take the Fox off the market and restore it. IHPA continues to show the Fox to potential buyers and talk with developers looking at Market Street.
The IHPA vision for the Fox is use as a multi-purpose event and entertainment venue, including a variety of film series. Inglewood possesses no place to hold a large, elegant event and no movie theatre. Further, revenues from such events do not stay in Inglewood.
In 2012, the City of Inglewood embarked on a series of community workshops to learn what the residents wanted Market Street to be. One of the consistent outcomes of these workshops was to save the Fox. Residents are thrilled with the IHPA effort.
The following year the City began planning for the re-vitalization of Market Street. The City issued an RFP and made it clear in their instructions that the Inglewood Fox was to remain and should be part of any proposal.
Now, in the summer of 2015, a Stakeholders Advisory Committee (the president of IHPA is a member of this Committee) has been formed and is working closely with the urban planning consultant and the City to solidify the vision for Market Street.
Exactly who will restore the Inglewood Fox is still up in the air. The current owner may do so or he may sell the theatre. Either way, the Fox will be restored.
It is the same story that many historic theatres experience. The owner has done nothing to protect his investment and IHPA has no formal assessment of the structural soundness of the theatre. IHPA is fully aware that the original roof leaks and at least one of the cracks is large enough for a pigeon on the wing to fly into the theatre. Portions of the gilt plaster ornamentation on the ceiling have fallen and there is serious water damage to the walls. Still, the Inglewood Fox is in much better condition than many other vintage theatres.
LAHTF’s partnership with IHPA is another example of the organization’s advocacy behind the scenes. This work is at the heart of what the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is all about.
To see photos of the inside of the Fox as it is today, visit our Facebook Page.