STOCKTON – For decades, it was simply referred to as The Fox. And it’s still The Fox as far as some locals are concerned.
Today, this historic jewel of downtown Stockton is now known internationally as the Bob Hope Theatre. The new name is a nod to the spectacular visual metamorphosis of the performing theater that took place from 2002 to 2004 when it was closed for renovations.
When it reopened in September 2004 with comedian Jerry Seinfeld adding Hollywood glitter to the occasion, the newly transformed performance venue was renamed the Bob Hope Theatre, said Courtney Jankovich, marketing manager of SMG Facilities which manages it for the City of Stockton.
“We manage the facility and we do all the booking,” said Jankovich.
The national SMG Facilities also manages the Stockton Arena and the Oak Park Ice Arena for the city.
The next big name to hit the stage at the Bob Hope Theatre is the GRAMMY®-winning, multiple-year CMA and ACM Female Vocalist Martina McBride. Her concert is scheduled for Aug. 8. She is just the latest of international-caliber performers who have graced the stage of the theatre that is located right next to the old San Joaquin County Courthouse on San Joaquin Street a block west of Weber Avenue. Bill Cosby also entertained his fans on the stage more than a decade ago. That stand-up comedy show even made one small-time hot dog-stand owner Diane Phillips of Manteca famous according to the Andy Warhol description of fame in the modern age. The hot dog that the comedian had the day he arrived in Stockton was purchased at Phillips’ long-running diner in the Lincoln Center in north Stockton. Cosby enjoyed the food so much it became part of his comedy routine that evening.
The renaming of The Fox to Bob Hope had to do with Stockton resident and developer Alex G. Spanos who chipped in $500,000 of his own money toward the renovation of the historical theatre. At his request, the Stockton City Council voted to approve the renaming of The Fox to Bob Hope, one of the country’s best-known legendary entertainers.
In addition to the half-million donation from Spanos, the theatre’s renovation budget also included a $290,000 award given by Congress to the City of Stockton in 2001 and another $225,000 in 2002. The renovation project also benefited from a $300,000 California Bob Hope Heritage Fund Grant from the state.
“The recent renovation has created a wonderful space to enjoy not only local arts productions, film, dance, comedy and Broadway-type entertainment, but also the latest in top name musical entertainment,” according to information provided by Jankovich.
But the stage attractions are not the only offerings that theatre guests can enjoy during their visit. These occasions also provide opportunities to admire the building’s historical wealth which the renovations carefully preserved for posterity.
The original tile and chandelier in the exterior lobby have been preserved. While the fountain and pool that once graced the rotunda are now just memory, they have been replaced by an Italian marble floor mosaic made up of 80,000 pieces in a design that represents the old fountain and pool. Other artwork pieces throughout that guests can admire during their visit include gargoyles, coats of arms and a mural of mythic horses.
During classic-movie showings, guests are treated to organ concerts featuring a 1928 Robert Morton theater organ which was last played in the Seattle Fox Theatre more than half a century ago. The Friends of the Fox had the organ restored then donated it to the theatre. Classic movies are shown at the theatre every second Friday of the month all year.
The history of Bob Hope Theatre goes back to 1929 when Fox West Coast Theaters invested nearly half a million dollars “to build a luxurious, safe and comfortable theater – the Fox California, or the Fox. When it opened on Oct. 14, 1930, the Fox was “one of the most grandiose events in the region” and was the largest vaudeville house in California with 2,170 seats. It was also considered one of the safest buildings of its time, built entirely with cement and steel “with the ability to evacuate guests within two minutes.”
The Fox, built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, was constructed in a span of 14 months.
The Bob Hope Theatre is considered one of only two remaining “movie palaces” in California.
— ROSE ALBANO RISSO