An ongoing restoration/renovation of the Henry Fonda (
Their dedicated work went into making the theater viable again by restoring many of its interior elements and areas that had been covered up, closed, or remodeled over the years. More work is planed for next year as the original blueprints were located by contractor Randy Van Ausdall (who also does the repairs and building work for Wattles Mansion and the Hollywood Heritage Museum), and plans are being drawn to restore the lobby and façade.
The lobby was covered by a dropped ceiling, and actually goes 14 feet higher, in the 1950s. Statues and elaborate ceiling details remained hidden in place. The Spanish Colonial Revival façade also still remains under the current sheet metal façade. Plans for the original Music Box electric roof sign (removed by 1940) are being bid now and additional interior restoration of the lobbies and auditorium will continue on a regular basis as new information is discovered.
Beside the visible improvements, extensive new lighting and sound equipment have been added, restrooms and plumbing redone, and a new air conditioning system installed.
The other unseen surprise was the former roof garden
theater and café which had been closed for over 60 years, unless you were a
pigeon. Hidden from the street by the sheet metal façade, the stairs to it from
the balcony lobby were reopened and the area cleaned, repaired, and restored.
Most of the original painted ceiling murals remained and needed only minor
repair. The view from the rooftop is a highlight of
This legendary theater opened its doors on October 18,
1926 (October 18 was also the opening date for the Egyptian Theater in 1922)
under the direction of Broadway star Carter DeHaven
whose daughter, Gloria DeHaven, would become a top
By 1936 radio had moved in as
By the 1950s the theater had been converted to movies with its best-known name being the Pix Theater. By the mid-1980s, the Pix closed and the Nederlander Organization took it over to complement their larger theater, The Pantages, a block away. Renaming it the Henry Fonda, live theater returned on a g regular basis until 1994 when subway construction closed down not only this theater, but most other theater activity in what had been becoming a revival of stage shows in the area. The Pantages was restored and reopened to much success in 2000 and continues to be successful today. However, the Fonda fell through the cracks.
Enter Thad, Marco, and Burt, who found a mission, a very
hard one, to bring back this tarnished landmark as a theater / event space,
resulting in the theater’s rebirth. Their success will have brought in over 300
bookings this year alone, bringing with it a lot of jobs, money, and positive
Hollywood Heritage is working now on plans for our 25th anniversary event to take place at the theater next November, for which the space is being generously donated.. To show their commitment to the community, Thad, Marco, and Burt have designated Hollywood Heritage as one of their official charities and are making a substantial monthly donation to us. Even without these two important contributions, Hollywood Heritage is very appreciative and supportive of this restoration of a landmark building into a successful business, and have been working with the owners to help them with their mission for the past year.
Two other notes of fate for this
project. They are renaming the theater to it’s
original title “The Music Box,” where the initials M, B, and T match those of
Marco, Burt and Thad. Before opening here, Thad operated the Blue Palm