Skip to main content

Iconic Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf and Madame Tussauds: A Partnership 50 Years in the Making

Wax Museum

Iconic Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf and Madame Tussauds: A Partnership 50 Years in the Making

Media Contacts:
Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf: David Perry, DP&A, Inc. / (415) 693-0583 /

MERLIN ENTERTAINMENTS: Sally Ann Wilkinson / ++ 44 20 8899 6110 /

30 May 2013 – San Francisco, CA: After 50 years at the center of Fisherman’s Wharf, a new chapter has begun for San Francisco’s famed Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf ( guaranteeing the continuation of a Wax Museum attraction as part of the City’s tourist landscape. Merlin Entertainments, the world’s second-largest visitor attraction operator, has signed a lease with the Wax Museum building to open both a world famous Madame Tussauds San Francisco wax attraction, and The San Francisco Dungeon at Fisherman’s Wharf. Both of these exciting new attractions are scheduled to open in Summer 2014, as part of a $35 Million investment by Merlin.

“It’s hard not to wax nostalgic about our half-century mark,” says Rodney Fong, 47, representing the third generation of Fong family ownership. “Without exaggeration, the Fong family and the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf helped create the tourist industry along our waterfront. Now, the wax mold is being passed to a new generation.”

“The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf will be a hard act to follow but we believe we can build on its success, and complement and enhance all the other amazing things on offer here,” said Merlin’s Midway Managing Director Glenn Earlam, noting that Fong and his team had made a very compelling case for them to come to San Francisco. “Like all Merlin’s attractions both Madame Tussauds San Francisco and the San Francisco Dungeon will be unlike any others, reflecting the unique culture and excitement of the City, each in its own special way representing the true ‘face of the place’.”

The Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf was opened by Thomas Fong in 1963, in a renovated grain warehouse across the street from the handful of shops, crab pots and restaurants which then comprised Fisherman’s Wharf. With remarkable vision, Thomas Fong saw the potential of his site to lure San Franciscans and visitors alike to the waterfront and to see it as a place to spend the day, rather than just passing through for lunch. Inspired by the wax figures at the Seattle World’s Fair, he decided to open a Wax Museum. The museum started with 75 life-sized figures in front of black curtains on the first floor and opened as the largest wax museum in North America.

In the 1960s, the museum grew to four floors of exhibits with over 200 figures in elaborately staged scenes, with costumes, props and lighting, carefully constructed to authenticate people at the peak of their fame. Many scenes were designed and sculpted by Thomas Fong’s son Ronald, who co-directed the family business in partnership with his father from its inception. Ron continued to add new elements to the museum over the years, also adding a collection of gift shops and new attractions. This group of Fong operations was known as the Wax Museum Entertainment Complex and at one time included four attractions, four gift shops and an arcade, as well as a Galleria of rental shops, which were leased to independent specialty retailers. In September 1998, the historic 100-year-old San Francisco landmark that was The Wax Museum Entertainment Complex for 35 years, was torn down to make way for the current 100,000 square foot building.

MADAME TUSSAUDS is world’s best known wax attraction. Every figure is the result of 200 years of expertise and painstaking research and takes Madame Tussauds’ gifted sculptors a minimum of three months to make. Most contemporary figures are also produced following sittings with the celebrities themselves and are the result of hundreds of separate measurements, and hours matching skin tone, eye and hair colour – with every individual hair inserted separately. Underlining the close relationship Madame Tussauds has with its celebrities – they and their film studio wardrobe departments often even supply clothing for their figures, or designers will reproduce significant or iconic outfits as exact replicas, only for Madame Tussauds.

THE SAN FRANCISCO DUNGEON will be the ultimate thrill-filled journey through the dark parts of San Francisco’s past. The black comedy of attractions, The Dungeons use a combination of theatrical storytelling by skilled actors, comedy, special effects, rides, jumps and edge of your seat surprises to really involve visitors, and bring history alive in a way that makes you laugh and shiver in equal parts.