The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust awarded a $500,000 grant to Alberta Bair Theater’s Capital Campaign to help fund the theater’s $13.6 million renovation and expansion.
“We are thrilled to receive this level of support for and commitment to the capital campaign,” Jan Dietrich, executive director of Alberta Bair Theater, said in a press release. “This generous grant from the Murdock Trust brings ABT much closer to achieving its $13.6 million funding goal. This leaves us $600,000 to raise.”
The renovation and expansion will improve the theater experience for patrons, artists, and staff and expands the footprint on both the east and south sides of the theater to increase the lobby space and allow for an elevator. Restrooms will be added on the lobby and mezzanine levels. More than half of the project is funding infrastructure to meet the needs of artists and touring companies.
Retrospective: The Fox Theater and Alberta Bair Theater
Fox Theater, 1931
The Fox Theater was built in 1931 at the corner of North Broadway and Third Avenue North. Its construction was at least partially financed by the 20th Century Fox Corporation, which built similar art deco theaters around the country. A
1931 Billings Gazette article stated the cost of the marquee alone at $30,000, the equivalent of more than $475,000 in 2018.
Fox Theater entrance, circa 1930s
The Fox Theater originally featured a small, but ornate box office on North Broadway. The building featured a total of 2,128 lights, according to a
1931 Billings Gazette article.
Fox Theater lobby, circa 1930s
The lobby of the Fox Theater featured furniture that matched the theater's art deco exterior.
Fox Theater entryway, circa 1930s
The Fox Theater opened on November 17, 1931. The theater's heating and cooling system was state-of-the-art at the time, and
cost $60,000 to install, the equivalent of more than $950,000 in 2018.
Fox Theater auditorium, circa 1930s.
The auditorium of the Fox Theater is shown in its original form. The
theater opened with a parade and street dance, and a showing of the 1931 film "Merely Mary Ann," starring Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.
Fox Theater balcony, circa 1930s
The view from the balcony of the Fox Theater shows the painted walls that the theater featured upon its construction. The theater was designed by Robert C. Reamer, who was the architect behind the Old Faithful Inn and Lake Hotel in Yellowstone National Park, as well as a number of other theaters, mostly in Washington.
Fox Theater, 1976
The marquee of the Fox changed significantly over the course of the mid-20th Century to accommodate better lettering.
Fox Theater, 1978
The Fox Theater was
sold to Carisch Theaters in 1978, after being under the ownership of Los Angeles-based Mann Theaters. Carisch, which operated other theaters in Billings including the Cine 3 (later Cine 7), Sage 4 Drive-In and later the Babcock Theatre, planned to use the Fox as a mixed-use theater with both movies and live theater productions.
Fox Theater auditorium, 1978
The Mayan motif of the Fox Theater was abandoned for a more subdued look, with the exception of a portion of the theater's wall mural. Following its sale to Carisch Theaters, the Fox hosted concerts by such acts as Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck and George Thorogood.
Fox Theater seat removal, August 1985
The Fox Theater
began its transformation into the Alberta Bair Theater in 1985. Here, seat cushions are removed from the theater's auditorium on August 2, 1985. The final concert at the Fox took place on June 27, 1985.
Fox Theater remodeling, August 1986
It wasn't until late in the Fox Theater's remodeling process in 1986 that the decision was made to
rename the theater for its largest contributor, Alberta Bair. Bair's childhood home stood on the site of the theater.
Alberta Bair Theater expansion, 1987
The Alberta Bair Theater is shown in January 1987.
Alberta Bair Theater, 2017
The Alberta Bair Theater is shown in October 2017.
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