The Indiana Theatre is the largest theatre built in Indianapolis. Since opening in 1927, it has housed many movies and performances. When first built, the theatre housed bowling alleys, a barber shop, a lunch counter, and a Spanish-style ballroom that is still used today. In 1980 the building was remodeled to accommodate the Indiana Repertory Theatre. The Repertory Theatre has been housed in the theatre ever since and continues to put on productions today
The Indiana Theatre opened on June
18, 1927 as a movie palace. The theatre was designed by architects Rubush
and Hunter designed the six-story building that ended up costing $1.5 million.
The theatre had 3,313 seats and at one time the building’s basement held
bowling alleys, billiards, a lunch counter, and a barber shop. The theatre’s
façade was a white glazed terra cotta that matched the Spanish Baroque style of
its exterior. Its design recalled the work of 17th and 18th
century Spanish architect, Jose de Churriguera.
Inside the theatre building were beautiful marble structures
and bold colors; the theatre was equipped with air-conditioning, expensive
technology in that era. At the time it was built, the theatre also had the Spanish-style Indiana Roof Ballroom on its 6th
floor. The walls of the ballroom were made to resemble Spanish houses, as in a
village, and its ceiling was made to look like the sky. The ballroom had a
“sea-breeze”: outside air passed over iced salt water in the summer to give the
effect of a sea breeze in a real Spanish town. In the winter they used warmed
salt water to create this illusion.
In 1975 the theatre closed, but reopened
in 1980 when it became the home of the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Before
opening, the theatre was renovated and the building restored by Evans Woolen:
the balcony of the house was made into a second theatre to accommodate the
theatre group and the ballroom was retained in its original state.