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Fullerton Makes Pledge for Theater Restoration

City agrees to match as much as $1.65 million in donations toward the purchase and renovation of historic downtown Fox Theatre.

February 19, 2004|Stanley Allison | Times Staff Writer

Boosting plans for the purchase and restoration of the historic Fox Fullerton Theatre, the City Council has pledged to match up to $1.65 million in donations toward the cause.

The council agreed by a 5-0 vote Tuesday night to help the fundraising effort, on the condition that funds to purchase the theater be raised by November and that within three years of its purchase, the stabilization, seismic retrofitting and restoration be completed.

The Fullerton Historic Theatre Foundation envisions using the facility to stage performing arts and show first-run movies.

Jane Reifer, the foundation president, said the gift puts the project within "the realm of possibility" and said she was certain the group would be able to raise its own $1.65 million by November.

Combined, the $3.3 million would be enough for the foundation to buy the theater from Edward Lewis, an attorney.

The 1920s-era vaudeville theater and film house flourished on downtown Fullerton's bustling Harbor Boulevard until businesses closed or moved to outlying malls and the downtown area lost much of its allure.

The Fox, struggling for customers, fell into disrepair and eventually closed in 1987.

Recent downtown revitalization, with new shops, restaurants and cafes, is attracting customers, but efforts to restore the Fox have been stymied by the costs.

After raising funds to buy the theater, the foundation needs to raise $8 million to restore the building.

"The council absolutely had to do this to give the foundation the slightest chance of succeeding," said Councilman Leland Wilson.

If all goes well, Reifer said, the restored Fox could open in time for First Night Fullerton, the city's New Year's Eve celebration, in 2007.

The city has promised to build a 200-car parking garage once the theater is restored.

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