by Paula Bosse
From the earliest days of moving pictures, most downtown movie houses called Elm Street home. Some were originally vaudeville houses which occasionally featured short films between acts of the live revues, and some were theaters built expressly as move theaters. Most of the downtown theaters could be found on Elm Street, and the stretch between, say, Field and Harwood became known as “film row” or “theater row.” Most theaters were located on the north side of Elm in the blocks east of Akard Street, but a few found a home west of Akard. One of these — which I’ve seen in several of the photos I’ve posted — was the Fox Theater, located next to the Gus Roos store, at 1411 Elm, just west of the Akard intersection.
The Fox — which was named after owner Max Fox, a Polish immigrant who also owned the nearby Strand Theater — opened in the early months of 1922. During its 40-year history, it had something of a “colorful” life: despite opening with a sweet, family-friendly Mary Pickford movie and then showing mostly second-run features, it ultimately became one of Elm Street’s seedier theaters, showing cheap exploitation flicks and, later, becoming a “burlesk” house with on-stage strippers and “adult-only” fare playing continuously from 9 AM (!) to 11 PM. The Fox remained in business until the end of 1961 when property in the 1400 block began to be sold in order to build the First National Bank Building. (A comprehensive history of the theater can be found on Cinema Treasures.)
As I said, I’ve noticed the Fox Theater in a number of photos I’ve come across — some of which I’ve posted previously. Here are a few views of Elm Street in which the Fox pops up in a cameo appearance.
The top photo shows Elm looking west in about 1922. Down the street a bit you can see the Dixie Theater at 1315 Elm, one of the (if not THE) oldest permanent movie theater spaces in Dallas. The Dixie began life in 1909, the third theater in the location originally occupied by the Theatorium, which opened in 1906. (I wrote about the Dixie and other early “photoplay houses” in Dallas here.)
A similar view from about the same year is seen in this postcard (click to see a very large image):
From the WWII-era, this fantastic color photo, looking east (the Queen, Telenews, Capitol, Rialto, and Palace theaters can be seen in this photo, with the silhouette of the Majestic Theatre’s sign seen way in the distance):
In 1955, the wall of the building next door to the theater collapsed, killing several people (I wrote about that building collapse, here):
And, lastly, a photo of a decidedly less glamorous Elm Street, showing the “Fox Burlesk” in its final months, taken about 1961:
Sources & Notes
Top photo from Troy Sherrod’s book Historic Dallas Theatres; photo from the Dallas Public Library.
1940s color photo from Noah Jeppson’s Unvisited Dallas post, “Elm Street 1945,” here.
UPI photo showing the building collapse was posted a few years ago by Robert Wilonsky on the Dallas Observer’s Unfair Park blog, here.
Bottom color photo from Flickr user Schaffershot54, here.
Other Flashback Dallas posts on Dallas theaters can be found here.
All images larger when clicked.
Copyright © 2016 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.