By Julia M. Johnson
Meeting planners who want to stage a unique event in a one-of-a-kind space need not look further than the Fabulous Fox Theatre in midtown St. Louis.
Located in the heart of the Grand Center arts and entertainment district, the Fox is famed for hosting top-name entertainment, plays, musical acts and concerts for audiences of 4,000-plus. Its legendary, luxurious interior leaves no space unadorned, and many St. Louisans cherish fond memories of seeing scintillating shows there.
Less widely known, however, is the starring role the Fox can play as a meeting and gathering space. Monica Robinson, director of event services, says the venue is working hard to update that perception so planners will know their groups are welcome.
Built in 1929 as an ornate movie palace in the Siamese-Byzantine style, the Fox has housed a lot more than actors and audiences in its time. It has played host to corporate groups, both global and local, from St. Louis law firms to major companies like GE.
The Fox works well for gatherings of various sizes. Groups that have five figures to spend can rent the entire facility for a $25,000 food and beverage minimum, including the stage; without the stage, the full facility price is $20,000, Robinson says. These bookings are available on dates when no performances are scheduled at the theater.
The Griffin Room, overlooking Grand Boulevard, carries a $6,000 food and beverage minimum; the Marquee Room has a minimum of $5,000, or $2,500 for half the space, on either side of an airwall. The Griffin Room, which also serves as a restaurant, can seat up to 80 for dining, and the Marquee can seat one group of 150, or two groups of 70.
Both the Marquee and the Griffin can be booked on dates when performances are scheduled, according to Robinson. “If you’re looking at holding a meeting the same day as a concert or performance, my suggestion is to have an earlier start time for your event so your attendees and our concertgoers are not hitting the doors at the same time,” she says.
There’s also the Fox Club, which can seat 250, and the mezzanine level, which holds up to 200. “If you want multiple tiers for your event, even for a seated dinner, we can open up the full theater and use various levels,” Robinson says. “For a standing reception, we can accommodate up to 2,000 people.”
The theater’s lobby also can host gatherings of up to 600 guests, and its promenade can be outfitted to serve 300. Pricing for various configurations of the Fox’s spaces is available from Robinson’s staff.
Kelly Annis, client relations manager for The Stolar Partnership law firm in downtown St. Louis, planned the firm’s 200-guest 50th anniversary celebration at the Fox in the fall of 2006, starting with a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception in the lobby. “Then at a special moment, they opened the doors to the theater, and our guests were ushered down the aisles,” Annis says. “The stage was set up beautifully with tables, chairs, a star-studded curtain with twinkling lights, and the staff all lined up like actors on the stage. Having our guests get to go on stage was the icing on the cake.
“Many of them had been there for performances,” she says, “but to have the entire theater set aside for them made them feel like stars of the show.” After a three-course dinner and dessert, attendees were offered a tour of the facility.
“Most of our guests were born and raised in St. Louis and come from companies that have formed the city’s backbone, so they are used to some top-notch experiences,” Annis says. “This was spectacular for them.”
If a company or organization wants to buy out an entire performance of a show for its group of at least 200, that can be arranged before tickets for the show go on sale, Robinson says.
Robinson says the Fox has hosted influential groups from companies of all types, including French cosmetic firm Clarins Paris; GE Fanuc, a division of GE; and pharmaceutical firm Novartis.
Charlottesville, Va.-based GE Fanuc’s event last year was a corporate conference party for about 800 people, mostly men, so the Fox worked with the company to select entertainment that would appeal to them. GE Fanuc rented the entire building, and brought in a local band to provide atmosphere.
“Boston was playing a World Series game that night, and we had a lot of people in from that area,” says Kat Pate, who handles global show and event marketing for GE Fanuc. “The Fox staff set up big-screen TVs in front of the stage so people could watch the game theater-style – and so we could keep our attendance up! We also had strolling entertainment, jugglers, magicians and acrobats. There was plenty of room, so if people wanted to sit and meet one-on-one or in groups at tables, they could.” Robinson says the Fox brought in the “traveling” entertainers from local venues such as the City Museum.
Pate’s group included engineers who design robotics for brewing companies, so they had some special beverage requests. “We had to ask for imported beers from several different companies,” she says. “The Fox catered to our every need.”
Fran Wulfers, director of special gifts for SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, says her organization has held its annual Bob Costas black-tie fund-raising gala at the Fox for the past 10 years.
“The Fox is a great facility for what we do, a dinner and then a performance at 8 p.m.,” she says. “We get various performers such as Sheryl Crow, Jerry Seinfeld and Tim McGraw, at Bob Costas’ request. Our entertainers are glad to be able to come to a beautiful facility like this.
“We used to have the event at a hotel, but needed a bigger facility with the capability to host musical guests and entertainers,” Wulfers says. “We usually sell out – 4,000 people – but the Fox has the capacity, and they’re able to provide the food and beverage services we need.”
Novartis held a dessert reception at the Fox following a recent convention in St. Louis, and the theater brought in singer Cyndi Lauper to provide musical entertainment. Robinson says the 3,000-person group enjoyed dessert served on all levels of the facility. She arranged for 20 buses on a rotating circuit to drop off convention attendees at the theater.
When groups need high-profile performers at their events, Robinson has them work with Steve Litman Productions, which handles big-name entertainment for the Fox.
All the Fox’s catering is done in-house, and its chef, Stephen Proctor, is known for putting on quite a show with food.
“He can handle anything, any cuisine,” Robinson says of Proctor. “I haven’t found anything he can’t do.”
Groups from weddings to corporate clients meet with Proctor for food tastings, and they’re welcome to suggest the dishes and desserts they prefer, but Robinson says most clients defer to the chef’s creativity. “He always comes up with one or two ‘wild card’ dishes to wow them at the tasting,” she says. “Only a couple clients end up not choosing them.”
Robinson says Proctor and his 10-person staff work closely with groups for weddings and other events, and they’re clever at concocting custom menus. One recent wedding group had ties to New Orleans as well as New England, so Proctor devised a spread with everything from beignet stations to crab cakes. “With a hotel or other venue, you may be going it alone on a set menu,” Robinson says. “But our chef loves to personalize.” For guests with Kosher food needs, the Fox can work with a local Kosher supplier.
Robinson says the Fox is getting the word out on its “premier theater parties” – packages that include a meal and a show, or a meeting and a show. Dinner packages are $42.50 per person without hosted bar, and $61.50 with bar; matinee performances with lunch are just under $26 per person. The Fox can accommodate groups of up to 250 for these packages.
Don’t expect any opening-night jitters from the Fox’s experienced event and service staff. They’re well versed in making every aspect of your event run smoothly, Robinson says. They can help groups arrange for all types of services from audio-visual to Web access, lighting and presentation equipment.
The Fox is a union house, and clients are encouraged to supply information as early as possible when it comes to equipment needs. “We’re flexible and willing to work with you,” Robinson says. “We have Internet access, and we can provide wireless with some notice.”
And even though the facility is a theater used by thousands of people at a time, Fox staffers work hard to keep it in stellar shape, Robinson says. So there are no worries about worn-out fixtures or tired-looking fabrics.
“Every summer, we take on a big renovation project – new carpeting, chairs reupholstered, whatever is needed,” she says. “Our partners are always putting more money into maintenance. We do a post-show report after every concert or play, and anything that needs work is fixed by the next day – from the light bulbs on up.” MM&E
(Julia M. Johnson is the Assistant Editor from St. Louis, Mo.)
Fabulous Fox Theatre
527 N. Grand Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63103
Director of Event Services
Phone: (314) 657-5052
Fax: (314) 534-4153
E-mail: [email protected]