The Fox Theater was built in 1928 and was located at 2211 Woodward Avenue at the corner of West Montcalm Street, in downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus Park. The Fox Theater in Detroit was one of five Fox Theaters that were built by film pioneer William Fox. The Fox Theater in Detroit was the largest of them all. The Fox Theater was designed by C. Howard Crane in Oriental style.
The exterior of the Fox Theater is a ten-story office building that was designed in Art Deco architectural style that features Asian motifs which, when illuminated at night, can be seen for several blocks away. The front and sides of the Fox Theater’s office tower are faced with a cream-colored terra cotta. There are beautiful, decorative lintels above the windows on the second floor and above the arched windows on the tenth floor. The giant marquee that reads “FOX” in neon lights, sits above the main entrance and extends vertically almost the entire ten stories on the exterior. It again reads “FOX” in massive, neon lights that start at the top and move toward the bottom. Atop of the marquee sit two winged griffins, one on each side of the vertical section of the marquee, that overlook the main entrance of the theater. The exterior of the Fox Theater is one of Detroit’s most beautiful buildings, but the interior was just as magnificent.
The Fox Theater building wraps around the theatre lobby and it creates a “U-shaped” floor plan. The auditorium of the Fox has 5,048 seats in three different levels of seating; the Main Floor above the orchestra pit, the Mezzanine, and the Gallery (balcony). The theatre entrance on Woodward has sixteen doors that open onto the storm lobby, with a black and white marble floor and small, ornate plaster alcoves in the ceiling. The storm main lobby is almost six floors high. The floor is terrazzo with gorgeous brass inlays. On each side of the lobby are eight vermillion-style columns. The columns rise from black octagonal bases and are adorned with eagles, flowers, and glass jewels. The Corinthian capitals are silver leafed and bear images of a variety of animals and birds. The columns support plaster beams decorated with faces, starbursts and cartouches. Between the columns are small balconies on the mezzanine and balcony levels that overlook the main floor. The ceiling is blue with a sunburst design surrounded by Fox griffins. At the rear of the lobby, the grand staircase leads to the mezzanine level. Two plaster lions with jeweled eyes guard the base of the stairs and fish-like creatures adorn the balustrades. On the mezzanine level, four additional columns frame two-story windows enclosing the auditorium. The orchestra pit and sections of the stage can be raised and lowered on hydraulic lifts. On the side walls at the orchestra level are Moorish arches extending to the balcony. Above is a colonnade at the balcony level with nine more vermillion-style columns, matching those in the lobby. The columns support decorated arches and behind the first three are grilles that conceal the bays containing the 2,700 pipes and other effects for the organ. The areas between the other columns are filled with tinted mirrors. The walls are topped with a cornice decorated with lion and human faces set among geometric designs and sunbursts. The Fox Theater had a special Wurlitzer organ that was constructed especially for the Fox Theatre and is one of the few theatre organs in the world that remains in its original installation.
Over the years, the Fox held vaudeville, live stage, newsreels, organ concerts, and movies. In the 1950s, the Fox held many premieres and concerts. As Detroit began to decline in the late 1960s and ’70s, it later switched to kung-fu and horror films. The Fox was beginning to become a run-down theater.
In 1987, the Fox Theater was purchased by Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Ilitch. Mr. Ilitch closed the Fox Theater and spent $12-million to restore the theater and return it to it’s original grandeur. A new multistory marquee was made to replace the badly altered original; the marquee still stands today. In 1988, the Fox Theater re-opened and is often said to be one of the world’s most intricate and magnificent theaters.
As of 2015, the Fox Theater is still open. The Fox Theater only hosts events and concerts today. The Fox Theater office building is used for the Little Caesars Pizza headquarters.