Visalia, Hanford Fox Theatres Suffer Recent Aging Issues

The local Fox theaters are starting to tell signs of their ages – well, maybe not just starting to, but rather again showing signs, each developing problems within the past week.

On Wednesday, December 7 around noon, a Visalia Fox Theatre employee happened upon a pond of water rising in the theater’s orchestra pit subflooring. It was getting seriously close to the pipe organ and the hydraulics that elevate the organ to the stage and carry it back down to the pit for storage, said Erin Olm-Shipman, co-executive director for the theater.

Staff immediately called Cal Water to turn off the water supply, and a plumber, and started bucketing out the water, while a board member brought in a sump pump to drain the water away. By Thursday morning, a leaking line was found underneath the stage and an 8×8-foot hole was dug near the northwest corner of the building to allow access, Olm-Shipman said. The fractured pipe was cut out and replaced in a timely fashion, for a show to go on, on Thursday night. A hole was also made in the stage, which was repaired by the time of the Tulare County Symphony performance.

Through quick work, no performances were cancelled at the 86-year-old Visalia Fox. However, there is a possibility that repairs my not be covered under insurance, Olm-Shipman said, as the theater experienced an earlier leak about a year ago. And, if covered, premiums may go up. Either option is an unexpected budget item for the nonprofit location.

Meanwhile, the Hanford Fox has ongoing troubles of its own. The theater, which opened in 1929, was shut down for approximately two years, after a ceiling collapse following a concert in 2014. No one was injured in the incident. Other improvements were made during this time including ADA-complaint seating and restroom facilities.

With work completed, the theater re-opened in April. However, just prior to the Saturday, December 10 performance of the Brothers Osborn, some shedding plaster was found. The Brothers Osborn said they never had a performance cancelled, so they moved outside. The artists performed atop of their tour bus, with fans watching while out in the rain.

The plaster, it turns out, fell off the proscenium arch, said Dan Humason, owner.

While concert-goers were not greatly concerned, Humason said, it warranted closing inside of the theater. The incident was highly played up in the media, he added.

The proscenium arch sits right above the edge of the stage. Usually people consider the proscenium like a steel anvil and nothing could go wrong, he said. But an inspection on Tuesday, revealed where the plaster had fallen from. All the plaster will be removed and the beam itself fully inspected. It is felt that all of the ceiling repair work along with the scaffolding being erected there to work on the ceiling, took its toll on the plaster of the arch.

Repairs are set to take place, and events for the rest of December have been cancelled. The theater is schedule to reopen in January 2017.

“It’s got be safe,” Humason said.

He also noted that all inspections following the ceiling restoration had been approved by the city and the state.

The Brothers Osborn will be rescheduled at the Hanford Fox, probably sometime in 2017, when their schedule allows. Ticket holders for the December 10 event should hang on to their tickets, as they will be honored at the future performance.

Humason posted on the Fox Hanford Facebook page –

“Our structural engineers have inspected the Fox Hanford, and have concluded that in order to provide a safe venue to adequately rock the house, further repair is needed on the proscenium arching the stage. So that’s what we’re going to do. Rest assured we will work diligently to have the theatre repaired in time for our January 27, Robert Earl Keen show.”s needed on the proscenium arching the stage. So that’s what we’re going to do. Rest assured we will work diligently to have the theatre repaired in time for our January 27th, Robert Earl Keen show.s needed on the proscenium arching the stage. So that’s what we’re going to do. Rest assured we will work diligently to have the theatre repaired in time for our January 27th, Robert Earl Keen show.

The Visalia Fox and Hanford Fox were part of a rise in theaters built in the late 1920’s and ‘30s across the country. According to the Hanford Fox website:

“The designers of the early theatres included a full stage, dressing rooms, fly and orchestra pit in their plans, because vaudeville was still very much in vogue and movies had not dominated the entertainment scene. Traveling troupes crises-crossed the United States exhibiting their acts for an entertainment starved nation.”

The local Fox theaters are just a couple of those remaining within California. The local communities take pride in their architecture and heritage.

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