Financial challenges are looming, but community treasure has been saved
The Fox Theatre is going through challenging financial times – hardly surprising when the same can be said for most nonprofits, and for General Motors, Citigroup, the state of Arizona, and federal government.
But there is no reason to give up on the Fox – a 1930 movie palace that has been restored into a sparking icon of downtown Tucson.
There will be difficult times ahead for the Fox. The cost to restore it ballooned from the $5 million to $7 million range to about $13 million before it reopened Dec. 31, 2005. The Fox Tucson Theatre Foundation had to borrow $5.6 million from the city, and the loan must be repaid starting in 2011.
But it also is important to look at the successful side of the Fox.
Since it has reopened, the Fox has averaged 152 events per year – about three per week. In 2007, the entertainment options at the Fox represented about 31 percent of all downtown events.
The figures are from Herb Stratford, who led the Fox revitalization before stepping down early this year.
When the Tucson Citizen published a story this week about Fox’s financial situation, online readers called for the theater to be closed, with many saying they don’t attend events there.
The Fox is a community resource. Not everyone will go there – just as not everyone will be interested in University of Arizona basketball or in watching the latest episode of “American Idol.” But that doesn’t mean there should be fewer options available.
Instead of slamming the Fox, those critical Tucsonans should check out the varied offerings and make an effort to be part of a Fox audience.
And the Fox foundation should listen to its critics, too, and offer a wider range of programming that may attract some naysayers.
In 2009, renovation of Centennial Hall on the UA campus will cause some shows to be moved to the Fox. Such partnerships between the Fox and UA should continue, giving the university a role in helping downtown revitalization.
No one got rich or exploited the system by rebuilding the Fox. It has been a labor of love for thousands of people.
As Stratford noted, the plan was never for Fox Theatre to be the anchor or one of only a few visible downtown entities, carrying the weight of expectations and frustrations for a slow-moving redevelopment of the city center.
An investment in the cultural history of a community is never a mistake. Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation has said, “Every successful downtown revitalization in the U.S. has had, as a central component, a historic theater.”
For Tucson, the Fox is that component. It will find its niche.