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Fox Plaza's Opulent Theater Past, Complete with Satanist Curse

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Welcome to Curbed's ongoing series titled Hidden History, where Curbed highlights a Bay Area location with a secret past. Maybe it's no longer there, maybe it's been converted into something else, but each spot holds a place in Bay Area history - even if not many people know it. Have a suggestion or know a place with a secret history? The tipline's always open or you can leave a comment after the jump.

The Fox Theater was San Francisco's splashiest and most glamorous movie theaters, but was torn down in 1963 to make way for an office building and apartments. Many folks were unhappy about the loss, some even believing that a curse was placed on the new building to doom its future.

The Fox Theater was built in 1929 by movie magnate William Fox. Designed by prolific theater architect Thomas Lamb and occupying the entire block bounded by Market, Hayes, and Polk Streets, it boasted some serious glitz. We're talking gold-leafed ceilings, tapestries, bronze doors, and a massive Wurlitzer organ.


Fox Theater opulent interior craziness [Photos: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY] By the 1960s, the theater was struggling to survive, and closed in February 1963. A "Farewell to the Fox" special final show was staged on February 15, attended by many film stars and musicians. The orchestra played I Left My Heart in San Francisco and San Francisco, before closing the organ. All the opulent interior furnishings and decorations were auctioned off, including the Wurlitzer Crawford organ (which was sold to assemblyman Frank Lanterman, only later to be bought by Disney and installed in the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood).

Items for sale from the Fox Theater, 1963 [Photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

When the theater was demolished, many San Franciscans were furious. On the night of the last show, future Satanist leader Anton LaVay supposedly yelled out a curse against the owners and the property, saying no business would ever last and life would be limited there.


Fox Theater destructo-porn [Photos: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY] The 29-story building in its place, commemoratively named Fox Plaza, was completed in 1966 by Victor Gruen Associates (famous for suburban shopping malls). A plan to demo its two-story neighbor and add an 11-story residential tower with ground floor commercial was approved back in 2009, butthe site recently sold to Essex for $135M. They have no immediate plans to construct the approved adjacent tower, but are sinking some money to renovate both the exterior and interior of the property.

Fox Theatre [Cinema Treasures]
Fox Theater [Found SF]
Fox Wurlitzer [Historigraphics]
Donated Home's Theater Organ Sparks Discord in La Canada [LA Times]
El Capitan Theater [LATOS]
Satanist Curses High Rise [Found SF]
Strange But True [Lisa Montanarelli and Ann Harrison via Google Books]
Previous Coverage of Fox Plaza [Curbed SF]

Fox Plaza

, , CA 94102