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#ThisPlaceMatters: Touring Historic Theaters Across the U.S.

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The interior of the Fox Theater in Spokane, Washington, which opened in 1931.  Image courtesy NAC Architecture.
The interior of the Fox Theater in Spokane, Washington, which opened in 1931. Image courtesy NAC Architecture.

All month long in October 2015, Curbed and National Trust for Historic Preservation are teaming up on #ThisPlaceMatters, a social campaign highlighting the most beloved places across America. Our motto at Curbed is "love where you live," which ties in succinctly with the National Trust's mission to highlight everyday buildings and places alongside those officially earmarked for historic preservation. We're looking to you, our readers, to submit photos of your favorite places—along a different theme each week—via Instagram and Twitter by tagging them with #ThisPlaceMatters. Don't forget to tag Curbed and @savingplaces in your photos, too. This week's theme: Theaters.

In our time-shifted, mobile-enabled, go-anywhere entertainment landscape, there's something radical about the design of classic theaters. Between the elaborate facades, illuminated marquees, and ornamental interiors, these structures celebrate a time, not so long ago, when entertainment was only experienced in a crowd, when plays and movies were communal. As part of the #ThisPlaceMatters campaign, Curbed and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are celebrating some of our favorite building types. Today, we're taking a look at historic theaters from across the country.

The subject of a $31 renovation project, The Fox reopened in November 2007. Image courtesy NAC Architecture.

It was a million-dollar evening, or at least, that was the price tag of the elaborate setting. In 1931, Spokane, Washington, was in the spotlight as the grand, glamorous Fox Theater opened its doors, a huge local event and a highlight of the city's Golden Jubilee. Designed by architect Robert Reamer, who created the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone, the 2,300-seat auditorium was a beautiful array of streamlined concrete and dazzling murals, including a 60-foot sunburst pattern that nearly steals the attention away from the main stage. Stars such as Will Rogers showed up for opening night, the public's first opportunity to see the modern marvel (with air conditioning!).

The unique layout and design, including a full-height theater, made it central to Spokane's entertainment scene for decades; between movies and concerts, including stops by stars such as Frank Sinatra, it was a centerpiece of the community. Starting in the '70s, the Fox began a slow decline, the victim of suburban multiplexes and increased competition. But, like many of the shows on its stage, the story of this building has a happy ending. When it was set to be demolished in 2000, the community stepped forward, raising million to preserve the classic theater (the new name, the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, reflects the $3 million gift his daughter gave to help revive and restore the building). It's since re-gained its role as a center of the city's entertainment district.

We also want to hear about the incredible movie house or historic auditorium where you live: submit photos of your favorite places, preserved or not, on Instagram and Twitter by tagging them with #ThisPlaceMatters. Here are some of our other favorites from across the country.


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