Fox Theater sign shines again

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Photo: Jennifer Cappuccio Maher, Daily Bulletin

Besides my column today, I also wrote an actual story about the Fox Theater sign’s return to functioning life. You can read it by clicking the link after the photos.

Above is a photo taken Wednesday evening. Beautiful, eh?

Below is a photo of the sign being removed on Aug. 6, 2008 from its perch atop the 81-foot Fox tower. From the street, it’s impossible to tell how large the sign is, but the second photo, as the sign is being reinstalled on Nov. 24, 2008, makes it clear.

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Photo above courtesy Richard E. Nunez; photo below courtesy ForSight Creations

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An old spin on Fox Theater sign

By David Allen
Staff Writer

POMONA — Like a beacon, the neon high atop the Fox Theater is shining again. And revolving.

For the first time in decades, the vertical letters spelling F-O-X on both sides of the sign are lighted and the sign itself turns.

The sign has been lighted again in recent works after a complete overhaul. With the theater reopening as a venue for concerts, community events and banquets, the sign is expected to be blazing each evening.

“I was just thrilled to see it,” said Mike Schowalter, a preservationist and Fox supporter who has researched the sign’s history.

Fixing the sign was no easy task: It stands atop an 81-foot tower and is itself 27 feet tall.

A crane with a 90-foot boom was used last August to haul down the sign, which was taken by the contractor to Pasadena for refurbishment.

ForSight Creations stripped, sandblasted and repainted the red sign. Workers also replaced all the neon, returning its original colors: red on one side, blue on the other.

They also rebuilt the motor that spins the sign, then used a crane to reinstall the sign in November.

ForSight, which in 2001 replicated historic signs at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, also restored the Fox marquee, which dates to 1947.

“It has over 1,100 pieces of new neon in it,” ForSight president Rob Jobson said. “It’s definitely the old-school theater marquee brought back to life.”

The company likewise fabricated more than 70 interior light fixtures for the Fox, including chandeliers and wall sconces.

Jobson grew up in La Verne and graduated from Bonita High, making the Pomona project of personal interest. His company also refurbished Fontana’s downtown theater in 2008.

The Fox sign crowned the theater from its opening day, April 24, 1931.

“In 1931 it was the tallest thing for miles around,” Schowalter said.

In her 1979 history of the Fox, Marcia Fredendall Warren wrote of a woman who used to be able to see the sign, and the tower’s “Sneak Preview Tonight” banner, from the intersection of Orange Grove and Garey avenues, more than one mile away.

The banner, used into the 1950s, indicated when a test screening of an unreleased movie would play and usually drew eager crowds.

The tower sign continued rotating into the 1970s, when the motor was turned off, Schowalter said. The neon continued burning even into the 2000s although with ever-fewer letters.

Toward the end, one side was burned out and the other side read only “OX.”

In 2007, a tagger boldly scaled the tower and scrawled on the red sign with white paint — marks that, because of the height involved, remained in place until the sign was removed.

In tests of the sign in recent weeks, the blue side’s “X” refused to light up.

“If a kid can get up there to paint, maybe we can get him to jiggle the connections,” developer Ed Tessier quipped Monday.

Because making the sign spin draws so much electricity, it won’t rotate every day.

“Whenever there’s an event, it will spin,” Tessier said. “Hopefully it’ll encourage people to come down to check out what’s happening. Like when the old ‘Preview’ sign would go up.”

News that the Fox sign won’t spin tirelessly hour after hour, night after night, should be a relief to sidewalk sign twirlers concerned about the competition.

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  • Ramona

    How wonderful to be able to see the rejuvenation of one of my childhood icons. Truly, in these times of stress and violence, we all need to be reminded that positive things are happening all around us. What better than a lighted beacon of good things to come in the form of the tangible FOX sign back in place.

    Thanks, D-Bomb, for keeping us apprised of the good stuff.

    [See, it's already catching on. -- DA]

  • Tad Decker

    David,

    Congrats on yet another front page showing! I enjoyed the article very much — it’s good to see some “good news” on the front page once in a while.

    As for the quote from Mike Schowalter that the Fox sign in 1931 “was the tallest thing for miles around,” I guess we can allow him some hyperbole. I think that the First National Bank building (later United California Bank, First Interstate Bank, and the Vault Club) at Second and Main, and I believe erected in the 1920s, was looking down upon the Fox in 1931.

    In any case, the re-opening of the Fox is one of the best things to happen to Pomona in a long while!

    [You raise a good point: Which building is taller, the Fox or First National Bank? I'm not so sure it isn't the Fox, which is 108 feet tall, but I don't know the height of the bank building. -- DA]

  • Bob House

    During a quick internet search to see if I could solve the “taller building” question, I came across a filmed-in-Pomona movie I had never heard about — Gang Boy from 1954. See a Pomona-specific synopsis here:
    http://www.ganeshahighschool.com/vbportals/ganesha/showpost.php?p=17851&postcount=9

    And a 26-minute You Tube clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC3aKgyhPBE

    The Fox sign is indeed beautiful — and hopeful and nostalgic all at once.