520 N. Main Street,
Newton, KS 67114
Fox Theatre - Newton (official website)
Previously operated by: Fox Theatres
Previous Names: Royal Theatre, Regent Theatre
Originally the address given for the Regent Theatre in 1950 was 218-20 Main Street. The street has now been re-numbered.
This classic theatre is currently owned by the city of Newton, which has been considering a plan to remodel the facility into a meeting center for the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The project is expected to cost half a million dollars, but no funding source has been determined yet.
The ancestry of the Fox Theatre can be traced back to BEFORE the beginning of the movie business. In 1914, a Great Fire devastated downtown Newton including the original building on the site of the present Fox Theatre.
As a result of that disaster, Mr. H.E. Herbert (owner of the Gem theatre, then at 621 Main) entered upon an agreement with Mr. T.H. McManus for the erection of what was then called "a first class theatre building" at 520 Main. Subsequently, the Royal Theatre was opened at the location in the winter of 1914-1915 - however, the Royal was not constructed for motion pictures - it was a state-of-the-art vaudeville stage!
In the six years of its history (1915-1921), the city outgrew The Royal. Consequently, it was closed in the fall of 1921 and extensive changes were made - enlarging and refitting - bringing it up to the standard of "the best in the land." The stage was reconstructed to accommodate large vaudeville attractions, the seating capacity increased to 750 and the lobby and foyer were changed and refurnished. Several feet were taken from the small shops in the front of the building and the building itself was extended to align with the alley, making it 165 feet deep. When finished, at a cost of approximately $20,000, the new theatre stood as "the most up-to-date and modern building of its kind."
That conformation persisted until later in the 1920's when a small screen was added to fit inside the stage's proscenium arch and silent movies began - a few years later a sound system was added and Newton had talkies! During that period of change, the theatre became known as The Regent. Then, in 1955 the big and final change occurred. Twentieth Century Fox, in a national campaign to buy "old" theatres and convert them, purchased The Regent and after extensive renovation turned it into the wide-screen, cinemascope motion picture theatre that stands to this day, almost 50 years later.
All was well until the 1990's when movie multi-plexes arrived on the scene nationally and then locally a few miles south of Newton. After a few struggling years, the economies of the multi-plexes killed the Fox and it was abandoned by its owners to the City of Newton in 1999.
There it sat empty and unused . . . until we discovered it and took on the adventure of bringing it back to life!
The Restoration and Rebirth Process
Theatre restoration is a process that seems highly romantic but, unfortunately, is steeped in grim financial reality. Even though few projects create such widespread local excitement as historic restoration, only creative financial management, and very cooperative relations with the community at large can ensure that such significant structures are reborn.
However, by following the recipe for success that follows, a recipe followed by historic theatres in cities large and small across North America, the Historic Fox Theatre will soon reclaim its place at the center of Newton.
The Recipe for Success
1. Newton's existing 5-county trade area (Harvey, Sedgwick, Reno, Butler, Marion) of approximately 620,000 residents (a quarter of the population of the entire state of Kansas) combined with its central location in the state and at the intersection of several major highways, including I-135, presents a more than sufficient potential audience base for the Fox to operate successfully as a performing arts center and meeting space.
2. The Fox is, within its market, sufficiently unique, appropriately sized and highly regarded as a facility to ensure a high level of community and event industry use after renovation.
3. The Fox is in a favorable competitive position within its immediate and extended market.
4. Ample opportunity exists for mutually beneficial programming and marketing efforts between the Fox and local organizations and venues.
5. Estimates of operation revenues and expenditures indicate the Fox's ability to achieve economic self-sufficiency in the first year of post-reconstruction activity (even excluding grants acquisition common to historic theatres and continuing charitable contributions).
6. Upon completion of the restoration phase, the Fox will have only the most minor competitive impact upon the local fundraising scene, with this impact being outweighed by its ability to serve as a tool for other groups' campaigns and as a vibrant cultural center for the entire town.
7. The Fox is well situated geographically to provide beneficial opportunities for block-booking of events with other presenting venues within the state.
8. The Fox's restoration and first five years of operation will create a positive economic impact upon the community estimated in excess of 1 million dollars per year as its successful presence serves as an economic and cultural catalyst for downtown Newton and nearby areas (see economic analysis sheet).
9. That plateau of achievement will start with a major fund-raising campaign to acquire the necessary $750,000 presently estimated as needed to bring the Fox back to its full, professional level status as a mainstage live theatre. It is estimated that this campaign will take two to three years to complete in full, however, reconstruction will prioritize those elements of the renovation, e.g. immediate upgrading of the heating and airconditioning system, that when repaired will allow the Fox to begin public presentations year-round and thus gather immediate income through ticket sales, rents, and concessions sales.
The Fox will operate primarily as a live, performing arts facility, presenting a diverse range of entertainment and community involvement centering on plays, dinner theatre, music, dance, celebrity appearances, lectures, educational events, business gatherings, religious services and other special events (see "Programming"). And at a future date, when the performing arts programs have been well established, the theatre will also host special film series.