It all started with a fire. In 1914, the small town of Newton had a booming downtown with numerous local businesses lining Main Street. One night, a fire decimated the east 500 block, leaving nothing but the charred ruins of those businesses that once stood. In the wake of the flames, plans were made to bring a high-end theater experience to downtown Newton, KS.
Of course, “theater” meant something different back then. The Royal Theater was created for live shows with singing, dancing, and comedy. The twenties began a new era for theater. Motion pictures began, soon to be followed by talkies! The new Regent Theater continued until the 50s, when it was bought by Twentieth Century Fox. Thus, The Fox Theater was born.
The one-of-a-kind red and green neon marquee stands out in the heart of downtown Newton, drawing people in to its unique experience. The smell of buttery, fluffy goodness wafts to the crowds as the doors are opened. Inside the lobby are contrasting black and white tile leading up to the concession stand full of mouth-watering treats and goodies for your movie watching experience. Into the auditorium, all eyes are focused on the red curtain, waiting for it to be pulled back to begin the main event.
The lights dim.
The curtain is pulled...
Residents of Newton have distinct memories about the Fox Theater. Whether it’s grabbing a big pickle at the concession stand, checking out the new digital spectacle called Star Wars, or lining up down the block to go see a record-breaking Gone with the Wind, it is an experience that has not been forgotten. Kids saved up every penny to buy a dollar ticket to a Friday night movie with their friends. Families from near and far filled the theater on any given night.
The Fox Theater holds a special place in the hearts of Newtonians. Barb Burns, an avid life-long fan of the Fox, remembers growing up in Newton in the ‘60’s when “entertainment was simple: The Fox, the roller rink, the swimming pool, and the Starlight Drive-in.” Barb states that for her “The Fox was the pinnacle: Saturday morning cartoons as a kid; Friday night feature films as a high schooler; and a single screen, no high-tech sound system. But we had fresh buttered popcorn, AC, and Mr. Lehman, the manager, walking the aisles to keep feet off the seats and romantic interludes on the back row at bay.”
The rich history of the theater, the changes that it has gone through over the years, and the experiences held within the auditorium create passion for the antique building downtown. For many, it was and will always be their first movie theater experience.
With the arrival of multiplex theaters in the early 90’s, single screen theaters became less viable, and it wasn’t long before the Fox closed its doors. Since then, many dedicated Newtonians worked hard (including the Newton High School class of 1965) to make improvements, book live acts, show movies; all to keep the Fox alive.
In 2015, the theater was bought by The Gathering Church. The church’s goal is to bring The Fox back to life in a way that recognizes its rich historical heritage while serving the entire community in a new and exciting way. For more info on the future of the Fox, visit http://newtonreborn.com/the-fox-reborn/
Indeed, life is already returning to The Fox. The marquee is once again lit and shining bright, a symbol of history and a sign of future possibilities. Momentum is building and anticipation is growing to see more of Newton reborn. Join the movement as we work together to see key pieces of our city revived, rebuilt and renewed. We see a renewed Fox Theatre as a catalyst for this Newton Reborn movement, fueling more life and growth in the heart of our downtown. Opportunities to participate directly are coming soon! Invite your friends and family along for the ride by sharing this and future Made in Newton stories with them.