Welcome back to Monochromes, a Friday mini-series wherein Curbed delves deep into the Library of Congress's photographic annals, resurfacing with an armful of old black-and-white photos of architecture and interior design. Have a find you want to share? Hit up the tipline; we'd love to hear from you.
Anyone who has been inside a contemporary movie theater in Brooklyn, say, the infamously icky Pavilion Cinema, might find these Library of Congress photos of the cathedral-like Fox Theatre a bit ostentatious. But that was the whole point. The grand motion picture theater, which stood at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Nevins Street in Fort Greene from 1928 to 1971, was one of the largest theaters ever built in the U.S., and its auditorium could seat 4,305 people. Designed by the Detroit firm C. Howard Crane & Associates, the Fox's design was a mish-mash of baroque, Art Deco, and East Indian architectural styles. It reportedly cost $10M to build, a figure equivalent to $139.1M today.
Just 14 months later Fox Film Corporation's share price plummeted from $119 a share to $1 during the Stock Market Crash of 1929. The motion picture house was forced to close in 1933. When it reopened the price of a mezzanine seat had dropped from 75 cents to as little as a quarter. The Fox's luck never really turned. There was a bomb scare in 1938, which the theater management handled deftly if not exactly sensitively, explaining that they had to evacuate the theater to search for a missing 7-carat diamond ring. In the 1940s the Fox banned unescorted minors under the age of 16 during certain hours, "in a drive against bobby-sox juvenile delinquency in movie theatres."
In 1965, a "shrieking, shoving mob of teenagers" caused a "near riot" in their quest to enter the theater to hear a "rock-and-roll disc jockey," likely Murray the K, famed for his association with the Beatles. The next year the Fox Theatre stopped showing films. The opulent building hosted occasional rock shows and was used by an opera company before being demolished in 1971 to make way for a far less glorious Consolidated Edison building.
· Fox Theatre, 20 Flatbush Avenue & 1 Nevins St., Brooklyn [Library of Congress' Historic American Buildings Survey]
· All Monochromes posts [Curbed National]