Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Fox Theatre

Detroit’s Fox Theatre was originally billed as “the most magnificent Temple of Amusement in the World.” Built to replace the outdated Fox Washington Theatre, since opening in 1928 countless audiences have taken in films and performances of all kinds. The imposing ten-story structure was designed by C. Howard Crane and was built as part of the theater empire of film mogul William Fox. He owned hundreds of movie houses nationwide – many named “Fox.” The Detroit location was particularly lavish. The original “house staff” of doormen, ushers, designers and matrons numbered more than 400.

After entering through a bank of elegant brass doors and an outer foyer, guests pass into an ornate 3,600 square feet and six-story high lobby, decorated with butterflies, lions and peacocks. Beyond this is the elaborate main auditorium, which seats 5,000 and is ringed by a pillared promenade. Throughout the interior, ornamentation and decorations designed by Eve Leo – Fox’s wife – feature Egyptian, Indian, and Oriental motifs. The theatre also boasts a 36 rank Wurlitzer pipe organ.

The Fox Theatre was the first to include escalators and elevators for patrons and the first in the world to have custom, built-in equipment for presenting talking movies. Between featured films, the Fox’s troupe of chorus girls would entertain the audience. Live shows ranged from the Benny Goodman Big Band to Berry Gordy’s annual Motown Revue. Its opening show was the film Street Angel, which premiered on September 21, 1928. The Fox remained open through the 1940s, and showed a variety of newsreels and movies from World War II. In 1956, the theatre hosted three performances by Elvis Presley, and in the 60s and 70s began to show a number of horror and kung-fu type movies.

Mike and Marian Ilitch purchased the Fox in 1987 and headquartered their various business enterprises in the building’s extensive office space. They also undertook a full renovation of the theater’s neglected splendor. The theatre was officially designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. In 2006, Atanas Ilitch Holdings announced the construction and addition of the iconic Fox Theatre tower sign, featuring LED lights and 18-foot letters spelling “FOX”. Today, Detroit’s Fox Theatre ranks as one of the most magnificent and profitable entertainment destinations in the country.



Fox Theatre postcard, 1929

Fox Theatre marquee and entrance, 1985

View all items related to the Fox Theatre