The Historic Fox Theater (Bakersfield, California)

The Bakersfield Fox Theater
Photo by David Seibold

Opened on Christmas Day 1930, The Fox Theater in downtown Bakersfield, California is a historic performing arts and community events center most commonly referred to simply as the Fox. With events ranging from ballet to contemporary pop and rock music, the Bakersfield Fox Theater has become an institution of the Southern California city.

Designed by S. Charles Lee, a Los Angeles based theater architect, the Spanish Colonial Revival exterior of the building is considered one of the best extant examples of the style.

The auditorium was designed in what was known as the atmospheric style and featured a plain ceiling set with small lights to resemble stars. The walls were covered with murals painted depicting Mediterranean countryside to create a feeling of being in an old walled garden.

Thanks in large part to the Fox Theater’s Type I construction of poured concrete over steel, the theater withstood the 1952 Kern County earthquake which famously leveled many other buildings throughout the city.

In 1953, the Mediterranean Village interior was replaced in a more contemporary Art Deco style. During this remodel a concession stand was added to the lower lobby, and the exterior was updated with a new marquee, box office, and main entrance. The screen was also replaced with a CinemaScope that measured 20 x 45 feet, and the projectors were upgraded with 6000-watt carbon arc lamps and anamorphic lenses.

In 1977, after 47 years in business, the Fox Theater closed its doors. The theater was briefly re-opened for a single year in 1983. In desperate need of repairs, the Fox continued to slowly decay until its restoration and revitalization in 1994.

The Fox Theater Foundation was created in 1994 with a “Save the Fox” campaign and was able to raise enough funds to purchase the historic theater. Restoration began on July 1, 1994 and despite a long list of needs, the late 90s were a new life for the once grand Fox.

The Fox Theater Clock
The Fox Theater clock photographed from the 5th floor of the Padre Hotel. Photo by ronknight777

The Fox Theater Bakersfield Facts

  • The Fox Theater is located at 2001 H Street in Downtown Bakersfield, California.
  • The Fox Theater Foundation raised necessary funds from only 380 individual donors.
  • The opening day feature film was the futuristic “Just Imagine”, a science fiction musical comedy film set in 1980s (50 years in the future at the time) New York.
  • At the Fox Theater’s 75th Anniversary Black Tie Gala, a raffle for a $10,000 diamond pendant was held with proceeds going towards bills and restoration projects.
  • The auditorium was built to seat 1500.

Contacting the Fox

  • The Fox Theater Foundation 661-324-1FOX (1369)
  • Event Tickets, Fox Box Office or 661-324-1369
  • Building Owner: Fox Theater Foundation