ST. LOUIS — The question of who will fully own the Fabulous Fox Theatre after its bizarre lease agreement expires in 2025 is headed to trial.
Fox Associates LLC and Foxland Inc. both own land and parts of the historic Grand Center theater thanks to a 1926 lease. Both argue they’re entitled to own the theater outright once that lease expires at noon on Jan. 14, 2025.
On Wednesday, Judge Michael F. Stelzer ruled that a trial is needed to determine the ownership. No trial date has yet been set.
In 1926, the predecessors to Fox Associates and Foxland agreed to build a theater on land both companies owned. The deal stipulated that Fox Associates would lease the building from Foxland for $40,000 a year for 99 years until 2025, when Foxland would take possession of the building, according to court documents.
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Fox Associates disputes the original intentions of the lease terms and said that Foxland is not entitled to land or portions of the building owned by Fox Associates.
Foxland owns 75% of the land beneath the Fox, as well as its grand entrance and ballroom. Fox Associates owns 25% of the land, plus the pit orchestra, backstage, main stage, some seating along the northern side of the theater and some adjacent land.
Fox Associates disputes the original intentions of the lease terms.
“We remain confident in our position and anticipate a positive outcome at trial,” said Fox Associates attorney Gerald Greiman. “Fox Associates looks forward to continuing business as usual, bringing great entertainment to the Fabulous Fox Theatre, now, and for many years to come.”
Fox Associates has said that it has secured multiyear “exclusive” rights to host Broadway programming at Stifel Theatre in downtown St. Louis.
An attorney for Foxland was not immediately available to comment.
But Charles Modlin, who leads the New York-based group and whose family has roots in St. Louis, has said that the theater will not close and that it has another Broadway operator familiar with St. Louis lined up, ready to take over in 2025.
In a statement Friday, Foxland said it is pleased with the court's decision and that it remains confident.
"Foxland, for its part, will not let the Theatre close and has been making plans for years to ensure a smooth transition of operations separate from Fox Associates," the company said in a statement. "Foxland hopes for a quick resolution of this dispute and looks forward to continuing the Theatre’s legacy of success for future generations to enjoy.”
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify terms of the original lease.