A new starring role for Redwood City's Fox Theater 

Broadway by the Bay and Redwood City’s historic Fox Theater is a match made in heaven.

Due to planned renovations, the longtime theater company is being forced from its current location at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, but it has found a new home at the historic Fox Theater in downtown Redwood City.

Due to the shaky economy, the theater was foreclosed until Eric Lochtefeld, longtime theater lover and owner of event production company University of Dreams, realized his dream of owning an old theater.

“I have always been enamored by old-school theaters that aren’t built anymore,” said Lochtefeld. “I romanticized about the idea of owning a venue for so long and this is a great opportunity for my company.”

Moving to the Fox Theater was a logical decision for Lochtefeld. The Fox’s 10,000 square feet of empty office space set the stage for a quick decision, as the lease was up at his business location three blocks away from downtown Redwood City.

The Fox Theater is one parcel of land, but it has four addresses with its office and retail space, the Little Fox nightclub and the Big Fox Theater. For the first time in more than five years, the office space is at 100 percent capacity with Lochtefeld’s company taking up three-quarters. Half of the 6,700-square-foot retail area is occupied and the other half is undergoing small renovations, Lochtefeld said.

With the 17,000-square-foot nightclub, now named Club Fox, having its grand opening this weekend, all that is left in the revitalization project is the Big Fox Theater. Set to begin no later than mid-August, the renovations will be complete in time for scheduled performances at the end of September.

With 12 bookings already planned for the next three months, Lochtefeld hopes to restore the venue to a premier music and theater destination by providing a diverse range of performances including cultural and contemporary music, comedy performances, a speaker series and theater shows including Broadway by the Bay, which will kick off its 2011 season in April.

While the Fox Theater is a smaller venue, seating 1,400, compared to the San Mateo Performing Arts Center, which seats 1,600, Broadway by the Bay Executive Director Jim Gardia said the quality of the shows will not change and neither will the ticket prices. The Fox Theater provides a more intimate feel, similar to old-style Broadway theaters in New York.

“We hope to gain a whole new audience who may not already know about us,” Gardia said. “Redwood City has welcomed us with open arms and to become a part of the downtown atmosphere is really exciting.”

Among the many benefits of moving venues is that Redwood City will provide a greater experience to theater-goers.

“I see theater as an evening out or an afternoon out, involving a meal, a drink, and going to a show,” Gardia said. “At Fox people can park once and are within walking distance to restaurants and the theater. The audience will enjoy a fuller experience overall.”

shaughey@sfexaminer.com

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