AKA: Fox Bakersfield Theater, Bakersfield, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Beller, Henry I., Construction Company (firm); Biggar, Charles Howatt, Architect (firm); Lee, S. Charles Architect (firm); Skouras Brothers, Theatre Management Company (firm); Henry I. Beller (building contractor); Charles Howatt Biggar (architect); Simeon Charles Lee (architect); Carl Gerhardt Moeller (architectural designer); Charles Peter Skouras (interior designer); George Skouras (interior designer); Spyros Skouras (interior designer)

Dates: constructed 1929-1930

2001 H Street
Downtown, Bakersfield, CA 93301-3919

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Los Angeles architect Simeon Charles Lee designed this theatre near the beginning of his career, creating an "atmospheric" movie palace design that was altered following the huge Tehachapi Earthquake of 1952. The theatre exhibited movies for 47 years continuously, from 1930 until 1977.

Building History

Designed by Los Angeles architect, S. Charles Lee (1899-1990), this was a late atmospheric movie palace, having a Spanish Colonial-themed interior. Seating 1,527 patrons, tt opened 12/25/1930, well into the era of "talkie" motion pictures, showing the film, "Just Imagine." Lee designed the building to have a reinforced concrete frame, one that withstood the 7.3-magnitude Tehachapi Earthquake of 07/21/1952 that caused 14 deaths and approximately $70 million worth of damage in Kern County. (Various sources placed its force anywhere between 7.3 and 7.7 on the Richter Scale.)

The Fox showed movies from 1930-1977, when it was closed. It reopened briefly in 1983-1984, but renovation occurred in earnest on 06/28/1994, through the efforts of the local Fox Theater Foundation.

Building Notes

The theatre received a Robert-Morton theater organ when built in 1930. Building cost was set at $250,000.

The Kern County Museum indicated that the prolific Bakersfield architect Charles Howatt Biggar (1882-1946) was the designer of the Fox Theatre in Bakersfield, CA. (See "Architects Who Designed Buildings in Kern County,"Accessed 10/17/2011.)


Although the Fox Theatre handled the great stress of a 7+ magnitude earthquake, its owners had to make some structural and cosmetic changes to the building. The Mediterranean village interior was replaced with a streamlined one in early 1953, part of a modernization and seismic rebuilding effort. As was typical of 1940s and 1950s movie palace "modernizations," the Fox Bakersfield had its marquee, box office, and front entrance substantially altered. It reopened on 05/01/1953. The screen was also removed, replaced with a 20' x 45' one capable of showing movies in the new CinemaScope film format.

It was restored between 1994-2002 by Bakersfield's Fox Theater Foundation.

PCAD id: 905