The Civic and The Fox opened the same year… one in Auckland, New Zealand and one *7587.56 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia. So what you say!! Read on , I was surprised and you might be too. Both have starry blue night skies and other similarities. Similar but different 🙂
Recently I visited Atlanta, Georgia and we attended The Nut Cracker Suite by The Atlanta Ballet Company at the FOX Theatre. I was in for a big surprise to see a theatre very similar in style to the CIVIC Theatre in Auckland. The ballet performance was also outstanding.
As soon as I could I Googled these two Theatres and was amazed to discover they both opened in 1929
Architectural style – Moorish revival
Architect: Charles Bohringer and William T. Leighton
Architectural Style -Mohammedan
Architect: Marye, Alger and Vinour
The similarities are I discovered part of a world trend to build beautiful theatres mostly throughout the USA and two in New Zealand (the Rialto Theatre in Dunedin is the other) These were called atmospheric theatres.
THE STYLE OF THE MOHAMMEDAN REMAINS OF EGYPT AND STANDS MIDWAY BETWEEN THE MOORISH AND ASIATIC STYLES.THEY WERE OFTEN COMBINED.
An atmospheric theatre is a type of movie palace that was popular in the 1920s in America. “Rather than seating the theatre patrons in a boxlike formal setting as passive observers of stage entertainment, the atmospheric design transported them to an exotic European courtyard or garden. A plain cerulean sky replaced the ornate dome of traditional theatre design. Wispy floating clouds produced by a projector replaced crystal chandeliers and gilt. Trees, plants, vines and taxidermy birds replaced gold leaf. Arches, trellises, balconies and plaster statuary replaced marble, painted wood panels and crystal chandeliers. As the entertainment was about to begin, lighting effects created the illusion of a setting sun, as colors changed from yellow to red to mauve. Small lights, arranged in the ceiling in constellation patterns, twinkled to create a sense of infinite space. The atmospheric theatre design made the theatre patron an active, comfortable resident of an imaginary time and place, not a passive, aloof occupant of an oppressive formal space.
ABOVE: This Wurlitzer piano rises out of the floor and is played at intermission at The Fox
The style caught on quickly in the US and around the world, as it promised an escape from the often economically difficult times of the 1930s into a type of fantasy world, where not only the movie but also the building aided the transfer. The setting helped people forget reality for a time.
The FOX was originally built as a Shriners Temple but soon after William Fox bailed them out and so The Fox was born.
Like the Civic Theatre in Auckland The Fox was restored in more recent times to the elegance of their earlier days.
The following are atmospheric theatres located outside of the United States:
Auckland Civic Theatre (Auckland, New Zealand).
The Auckland Civic Theatre is the largest surviving atmospheric cinema in Australasia, built in 1929 and featuring an India-inspired motif. Seating 2,750 viewers, in 2000 it was restored to near-original condition. Peter Jackson used the Civic in his remake of the film King Kong.
Rialto Cinema (Dunedin, New Zealand).
The Rialto Cinema originally seated 2,000. The cinema has been converted into a six-theater multiplex. Renovations in 1998 restored its Moorish-themed features and night sky.
Le Grand Rex (Paris, France)
Le Grand Rex is the largest cinema, theater and music venue in Paris, with 2,800 seats. Opened in 1932, the cinema features a starred “sky” overhead, as well as interior fountains, and resembles a Mediterranean courtyard at night. The cinema features one of the largest screen in Europe.
This is a list of atmospheric theatres in the USA.
Akron Civic Theatre (Akron, Ohio)
The theater was built in 1929 by Marcus Loew and designed by theater architect John Eberson. It opened as Loew’s Theatre and seats 5,000 people. The auditorium is designed to resemble a night in a Moorish garden. Twinkling stars and drifting clouds travel across the domed ceiling. Located on Akron’s South Main Street, the theater’s entrance lobby extends over the Ohio and Erie Canal. The theater has a small multicolored terra cotta façade dominated by a large marquee. The interior of the entrance and lobby is designed to resemble a Moorish castle with Mediterranean decor, complete with medieval style carvings, authentic European antiques and Italian alabaster sculptures. A grand full-sized organ hidden beneath the stage rises to the stage level on a special elevator. The theater closed for comprehensive restoration and expansion in 2001 and reopened in 2002.
Indiana Theatre (Terre Haute, Indiana)
The Indiana Theatre has a Spanish courtyard design.
Majestic (Dallas, TX)
Majestic (San Antonio, TX)
Olympia (Miami, FL)
Orpheum (Wichita, KS)
Palace (Canton, OH)
Palace (Marion, Ohio)
A John Eberson-designed theater built in 1928 and renovated in 1976. With a Spanish Revival courtyard design, the theatre features low voltage lighting in the ceiling to mimic stars and the original reconditioned cloud machine to simulate moving clouds. Alcoves in the theatre contain stuffed birds, including Eberson’s signature parrot, and the original Pietro Capronistatues.
Palace (Louisville, KY)
Palace (Carpenter) (Richmond, VA)
Paramount (Anderson, IN)
Riviera (Rose Blumkin) (Omaha, NE)
State (Kalamazoo, MI)
Tampa Theatre (Tampa, Florida).
The Tampa Theatre was built in 1926. Designed by John Eberson, the Tampa is a superior example of the atmospheric style featuring an auditorium that resembles a Mediterranean courtyard under a nighttime sky. Featured on the theater’s opening night was the silent film The Ace of Cads starring Adolph Menjou.
Uptown Theater (Kansas City, Missouri).
This John Eberson-designed Italian Renaissance atmospheric theater opened in 1928 and features an outdoor Mediterranean courtyard motif. It was built to seat 2,300, but the current configuration allows for 1,700.
7th Street Theatre (Hoquiam, Washington).
The 7th Street Theatre was built in 1928, seats over 950 people, and features an outdoor Spanish garden motif.
Fox Theatre (Atlanta, Georgia)
The Fox Theatre was built in 1929 and is the city’s only surviving movie palace. The original architecture and décor can be roughly divided into two architectural styles: Islamic architecture (building exterior, auditorium, Grand Salon, mezzanine Gentlemen’s Lounge and lower Ladies Lounge) and Egyptian architecture (Egyptian Ballroom, mezzanine Ladies Lounge and lower Gentlemen’s Lounge). The 4,678-seat auditorium replicates an Arabian courtyard complete with a night sky of 96 embedded crystal “stars” (a third of which flicker) and a projection of clouds that slowly drift across the “sky.”
Fox Theatre(Visalia, California)
The Fox Theatre was built 1929-30. It was designed to evoke the garden of a South Asian temple.
Gateway Theatre (Chicago, Illinois)
The Gateway Theatre was built in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, the Gateway Theatre is an atmospheric theater designed by architect Mason Rapp of the prestigious firm of Rapp & Rapp in 1930. It was the city’s first movie theater built exclusively for the talkies.
Lido Theatre (The Pas, Manitoba, CAN).
The Lido Theatre was built in 1930 and designed by Max Blankstein. The Lido is the world’s longest continuously operating atmospheric theatre (82 years straight as of 2012). The interior features an outdoor Mediterranean courtyard motif. It was built to seat 600 people but the current configuration allows for 350. The Lido has avoided major renovations, remaining close to its original design. A rare survivor in its class, one of the few cinemas to stay in the same family for four generations; It remains owned by the Rivalin family. Other atmospheric theaters in Canada include the Roxy Theatre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope, Ontario.
Midwest Theatre (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
(1931). John Eberson’s last atmospheric design, 17 N. Harvey Ave., Oklahoma City.
Paradise Center for the Arts (Faribault, Minnesota).
The Paradise Center for the Arts was Built in 1929 on the site of the former Faribault Opera House, the Paradise was recently renovated. The motif is one of a Moorish courtyard with Turkish caps over the doors, turrets and ‘stonework’ walls. Originally built to seat 915, the Paradise has been altered to seat 300.
Saenger Theatre (New Orleans, Louisiana)
The Saenger Theatre (New Orleans, Louisiana) was built in 1927 for the Saenger Theatres chain by architect Emile Weil, Its interior evokes a baroque Florentine courtyard. Originally seating approximately 4,000, in 1980 its seating was reduced to approximately 2,736 and it began to function as a performing arts center with occasional film screenings.
I hope you enjoy this little introduction to the Theatres of the Great Depression, feel welcome to share with other theatre friends.