Atlanta's fabulous Fox Theatre is a 1920s-era movie palace-turned-performing arts space located in Midtown Atlanta's business district. The Fox is located on Atlanta's legendary Peachtree Street and can be accessed easily from the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector. The building is a National Historic Landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a Georgia Museum Building.
Built in the late 1920s as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, the Fox is an architectural fantasy of Arabian and Egyptian themes, complete with onion domes and minarets. The interior is filled with lavish moldings, fixtures and trompe l'oeil painting. A striped canopy resembling the interior of a desert tent overhangs the balcony, and the ceiling features twinkling stars and clouds that drift through the sky. The Shriners needed money to fund the mosque, so they turned to movie mogul William Fox, who was building gaudy movie palaces around the country. Soon, the Fox was one of Atlanta's most successful movie houses.
In the 1970s, suburban multiplexes threatened to shut down the Fox's movie business, and Atlanta's growth as a business center threatened the Fox's very existence. Companies wanted the land for office space, and the building was nearly torn down. A "Save the Fox'' campaign was waged for four years by a non-profit organization committed to protecting the landmark, and the theatre has been successful ever since.
The 4,000-seat theatre is booked an average of 325 nights a year. It has hosted national touring companies of such blockbuster shows as "A Chorus Line,'' "Cats,'' and "Phantom of the Opera.'' The current season of shows includes "Grease,'' "Mamma Mia'' and "Rain: The Beatles Experience.'' The Fox frequently sets attendance records nationwide for shows and is one of the premier venues in the country for theatres of its size. The Delta International Series at the Fox brings performers from around the world to Atlanta, including the St. Petersburg Ballet, the Chieftains and Tango Buenos Aires. Individual concerts also sell out the theatre with performers like Rob Thomas, Kathy Griffin and Robin Williams.
Another popular annual event at the Fox is the Coca-Cola Film Festival, which returns the theatre to its movie-palace origins. First-run movies run throughout the summer, preceded by sing-along concerts with "Mighty Mo.'' Mo is the affectionate nickname for the 1929 Mtzller organ that rises up out of the stage on a platform. The 3,622-pipe organ is the second largest theatre organ in the US, only behind the Wurlitzer at Radio City Music Hall.
Tours of the Fox are available from the Atlanta Preservation Center that show the "inner workings'' of the theatre, including the original coal-fired boilers and one of the oldest air-conditioning systems in the U.S. The Fox Theatre Institute, one of the most active theatre preservation organizations in the country, works to preserve old theatres around Georgia and the nation using the experience of the "Save the Fox'' campaign and the ongoing preservation work at the Fox as models for communities who wish to preserve their artistic heritage. Indeed, Atlanta has done a fine job of saving the fabulous Fox for generations to come.