At left Damon Rubio stands with outgoing theater owner Michael Frydrych.

What Damon Rubio did for the Mary Pickford Theatre in Palm Desert, will not require as much effort to enhance the services and experience of movie goers in Banning.

Granted, renovations of the Fox have already been performed — an undertaking that was a little different for Rubio’s theater in Palm Desert and for his Minaret Theater in Mammoth Lakes after he bought them.

As of last Friday, Rubio had taken over the 92 year-old historic Fox Theater entity from Michael Frydrich, who for years kept visitors’ costs low by making it a cash-only business.

Rubio says he is going to “modernize” the Fox by accepting credit cards for purchases and enabling tickets to be purchased ahead of time online, as soon as his new point of sale equipment is delivered.

He also plans to add some community experiences: live shows streaming onto the big screen from the Royal Shakespeare Company will be broadcast in May, June and July — for those who prefer not to have to drive to Palm Desert to see those shows at the Mary Pickford Theatre, which he owns through his Cathedral City-based D’Place Entertainment, where the shows will also simultaneously be streamed.

Thanks to Frydrych, the building was remodeled in 2009 with a $650,000 grant from the city’s former redevelopment agency, and then brought it into the digital age in 2013.

He had owned it since 1995.

Frydrych resisted going the route of accepting credit cards and passed along those savings to his guests.

“Michael has done a good job bringing the Fox into the modern era,” complimented Rubio. “For us, we will be focused on showing first-run movies, offering theater rentals and private parties — things I love to host. We have a relationship with the Palm Springs Film Festival,” which hosts events at his Mary Pickford Theatre, “and we may show some of the ‘best of’ films from the festival here in Banning,” Rubio says.

Tickets will soon be available online once his POS comes in for theater goers to reserve tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “A Winter’s Tale” and “Comedy of Errors,” which will be broadcast live from Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom.

For now, prices will be noticeably the same, Rubio says, though he notes, “The increase in minimum wage is putting cost pressures on all of us,” which will require prices to be reflected in admission.

He intends to keep the Wednesday special, $4 all day (except for special engagements).

Rubio and Frydrych have “similar friends in the industry” who suggested the sale to Rubio.

Frydrych was not actively looking to sell the theater, and Rubio had to spend some time pondering an offer that “made business sense” for him to consider approaching him.

Frydrych will continue to own the theater building and the adjacent building that houses Angel’s Black Tiger Kung-Fu Academy.

“It was important to me that someone taking over the theater would be excited to be a part of the community, and wouldn’t just jack up prices,” Frydrych said. “I’ll miss it,” running a theater every day, Frydrych says. “But I’ll be around. People will still see me. It was a really hard decision, but it was time for fresh blood to come in, someone with new ideas that he could incorporate with his other theaters.”

Rubio said, “We’re really excited about having a location where people enjoy coming to shows. The long-range plan is to provide great enjoyment at great value.”

Theater show times for “Bad Boys,” “DoLittle,” and “1917” at Fox Cineplaex theater are already online at

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.


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