by Brandon Killman
There has been a drawn-out intermission to the restoration of the Fox Fullerton Theatre, though Act II of the refurbishment could be approaching soon. The theater stands to gain $2.5 million for restorations if the proposed state funding is approved in June.
The state budget will be revised in mid-May and final approval for the budget will be on June 15. If the funds for the theater are approved, the money will be sent in August to the Fullerton Historic Theater Foundation, which saved the theater building from being demolished in 2005 after it had been shuttered for about 18 years.
Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva proposed the funding for the theater in the 2018 to 2019 state budget proposal. In an interview with Inside Fullerton, the assemblywoman recalls fond memories at the theater. She remembered the days when her siblings would attend matinees shown on the big screen and years later, as a teenager, going on dates there after dinner next door at Angelo’s and Vinci’s restaurant.
Quirk-Silva said she knows some in the community question such a large contribution of state funds to this project. The Fox Fullerton’s Facebook page is peppered with both praise and concerns about the funding. Some questioned what happened to their donations, and others said the funds could be used for other things, such as repairing aging roads.
“Right now, as it sits on a fairly predominate corner in Fullerton, it isn’t generating any revenue for the city, and it’s been like that for over 25 years, so we need to move it forward,” Quirk-Silva said in response to criticism.
Leland Wilson, president of the Fullerton Historic Theater Foundation, and Quirk Silva served together on the city council from 2004 to 2006, during the peak of the “Save The Fox Campaign,” in 2005. At the time the city had planned to demolish the theater, but they challenged the foundation to raise $1 million to stop the demolition. The city then matched those funds with an additional $1 million contribution. That money was used to repair the ceiling of the theater and parts of the exterior, among other things.
This past March, the theater held a screening of Fullerton College film students’ work, marking the first time in decades that a film has been projected in the building.
The foundation would like to hold more events like this, but there is more work to be done.
The foundation would use the $2.5 million to restore murals and secure an occupancy certificate, which would allow it to hold larger events in the theater. “The events we are holding are small: We have to limit them to about 50 people,” Wilson said.
Additionally, the foundation needs to make a myriad of safety-related fixes in order to hold more events. These measures to bring the building up to code will cost about $1.75 million, according to Wilson.
“It’s the stuff that people aren’t going to see but will keep the community safe,” Wilson said.
The code-specific components include a smoke screen, sprinklers, ventilation as well as heating and cooling systems. The restoration to the six bay murals that will line the theater walls is estimated to cost $750,000. The total cost of these projects is equal to the proposed state funding of $2.5 million.
The patience and taxpayer dollars required for the project are worth the wait, say it proponents. That’s because they predict the theater will once again be an important landmark that helps the city flourish.
“This is an investment in the city,” said Quirk-Silva. “this will not only attract people who are from Fullerton but also people outside of Fullerton.”