Fox Theater to get face lift

The Fox Theatre, although now crumbling with disrepair, was once a shining example of Hollywood’s glamorous heyday that truly shimmered when the first public showing of “Gone with the Wind” was projected on its single screen in 1939. With luck, perhaps the spell that was cast over audiences decades ago will be renewed; the magic of the movies strong enough to reverse years of decay.

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By Daniel Flores

HISTORIC LANDMARK

By Daniel Flores

A ghost rests on Mission Inn Avenue among the century old structures that line Riverside’s downtown.

The Fox Theatre, although now crumbling with disrepair, was once a shining example of Hollywood’s glamorous heyday that truly shimmered when the first public showing of “Gone with the Wind” was projected on its single screen in 1939.

RCC student Christine Mantoya wants to see history revisted.

“I think the city of Riverside needs to live up to its potential,” Mantoya said.”The buildings downtown are really beautiful. They’re like little time capsules you can walk up to and touch. There is so much that could be done with buildings like the old theatre. I would really like to see it be as powerful as it was a long time ago.”

On Nov. 20, the RCC/City Task Force met in the Digital Library to discuss short-term development plans for the revitalization of the downtown district.

Those present at the meeting included representatives from RCC, UCR, the Riverside Unified School District and the city. They established goals such as the conversion of the Fox Theatre into a regional performing arts center.

Other projects planned for the Mission Inn district all point in one direction; shaping downtown into the Inland Empire’s cultural center.

“The public benefit to be derived from the city taking charge of creating a performing arts center is really the main factor and most important at this time,” said city councilman, Dom Betro.

The Riverside City Council voted 7-0 on Nov. 16 to seize the Fox Theatre, saying the current owner failed to properly redevelop the historic cinema house as was agreed when the property was purchased in March 2001 for $1.4 million.

The purchaser, H.J. Zivnak, is ordered to sell the theatre back to the city for a sum of $1.66 million; hundreds of thousands of dollars less than he invested when $600,000 dollars in repairs are figured in.

“I basically purchased the theatre to preserve it and install a pipe organ and preserve the way things were done back in the beginning – Sing-alongs, concerts and silent movies,” said Zivnak.

Zivnak says the council, who wants to fund a costly seismic retrofitting of the building, has been contacted by the owner of the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles about potentially holding Broadway-style shows at the Fox.

Over 65 years ago the city of Atlanta burned brilliantly, for the first time, in the Fox.

Men, women and children sat in that particular trance that can only be achieved in the dark of a theater.

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