Empress Theatre

The Fox Senator


Fox West Coast theatre chain took over the operation and fully renovated the building's interior. The company installed 'talking picture' equipment for the price of $20,000, bringing the theatre into the modern era.  Vaudeville as a form of entertainment was eclipsed. On October 24, 1929, known as Black Tuesday, the U.S. stock market crashed and The Great Depression began.



On the evening of March 28, 1930, a disastrous fire gutted the theatre causing nearly irreparable damage valued at $50,000 -- little more was left than the rafters and exterior walls. The owner, Fox West Coast, expected to close the theatre for good, but an inspection of the charred wreckage showed promise for a successful rebuild.  Fox West Coast took on the challenge.



Major portions of the interior were renovated changing pedestrian traffic flow and seating arrangements to be consistent with other Fox theatres. In addition to a neon marquee, a Men's Toilet/Smoking Room and a Women's Toilet/Cosmetic Room were added.  The theatre's structure and framing, stage and back stage areas as well as portions of the pre-fire decorative elements were retained. The building reopened as the Fox Senator Theatre, no longer showing any stage productions in favor of motion picture films.



After the war, Fox Theatre management identified a faster and less expensive method for updating its theatres to create "deluxe motion picture houses." The company developed an in-house design department and renovated approximately 200 of their theatres to reflect the new corporate standards.  The buildings were updated to feature brightly lit marquees, aluminum panels, display cases, juke box-like ticket booths and gypsum ornamentation referred to as the "Skouras-Style."  Decorative elements included undulating waves, lush swags, drapery and cloud-like gilded forms to draw the eye toward the screen.  The Fox Senator's lobby, foyer and interior auditorium space were renovated.