In the mid-1970’s, Atlanta was going through explosive growth. During this time, the tracks for our first rapid rail system were laid, many of our skyline staples were constructed, and the city saw new attention as a destination for commerce in the southeast. It was over the course of these ten years that our city changed into the industry hub that we know today. But in the midst of all this progress, one small, historic theatre was threatened.
The Fox Theatre had been successful for the near entirety of its then 45-year span, but 1974 brought a low point to the landmark’s history. Due to declining ticket sales and a changing environment, the president of the theater’s parent company, John H. Stembler, announced that the Fox Theatre would close its doors forever, and was seeking an interested land developer to take over the well-known midtown plot.
Enter Southern Bell, who was looking for a piece of property on which to build their new corporate headquarters. The block the Fox was on was convenient and recognizable so it was purchased to be razed. An incredibly prominent Atlanta staple was destined to become the mortal enemy of all struggling theaters: a parking lot.
The people of Atlanta went into uproar, and then, the nation. Movie palaces had a twenty-year history of being paved over in the name of progress, and theatergoers everywhere were furious at the thought of losing one of the best designed. From this passion emerged a movement, championed by a group of local high school students. They called it “Save the Fox”.
This grass-roots campaign immediately took root. In no time, the “Save the Fox” petition received over 150,000 signatures from the Atlanta community, and on May 17th, the Atlanta Fox Theatre is placed on the Nation Register of Historic Places, an accolade typically reserved for buildings over fifty years old. It was the theatre’s “outstanding architectural merit” though that gave the Fox its status in the eyes of deciding body and the movement as a whole.
It’s because of this collective voice, this impassioned “Save the Fox” campaign, that our beautiful theatre was recognized as a historical asset, and subsequently purchased from Southern Bell by Atlanta Landmarks. Southern Bell proved incredibly compassionate, working with five Atlanta banks to help move the deal along, and on October 29, 1975, the Legendary Fox Theatre reopens for business.
Now, forty years later, the Fox Theatre is alive and thriving thanks to your continued support. Not only have we been able to provide Atlanta audiences with unforgettable moments for these four decades, but also we are now able to bring our consultation, education, and care to performing arts venues throughout Georgia and beyond. Through our outreach program, The Fox Theatre Institute, we can help preserve other historic theatres in need of a supportive community. Since 2008, donating to the Fox or attending an event helps us gather around these theatres to lift them up as you have us.
So join us for our yearlong “Legend Lives On” celebration, where we’ll look back on all the wonderful Fox moments of the past four decades and make brand new unforgettable memories to boot. There are plenty of chances to take part over the next twelve months, not only through our ongoing concerts and all-access tours, but also through our special Save the Fox 40th Anniversary events, like our fundraising gala or our summertime block party. This year, let’s come together to keep the stars at the Fox shining bright, and to pay that legacy forward to all of Georgia’s beautiful historic theaters.
The legend of the Fox Theatre lives on with you.