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Indianapolis theatres collection

Identifier: L520

Scope and Contents

This collection includes the business record books and inventories for the Circle Theatre, Indiana Ball Room, and the English Theatre as well as some small cards from the Lyric Theatre, ranging from 1915 to 1949.


  • 1915-1949


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Administrative History

The Circle Theatre opened August 30, 1916 as the first building in Indianapolis built for the purpose of feature length motion pictures. It was the first theatre in Indiana to premier The Jazz Singer, the first "talkie" movie.

"In 1916, several local businessmen set out to finance the construction of a theater on Monument Circle, on a site occupied by a livery stable for much of the 19th century. Designed by Indianapolis architects Rubush and Hunter, the theater was built in a Neo-Classical Revival style – marked by symmetry, bright colors and simplicity and inspired by the arts of ancient Greece and Rome – and its interior was designed in the style of 18th-century architect Robert Adam, who employed motifs from Greek, Etruscan and Pompeian artists.

The pastoral-themed mural over the marquee, which still remains, was created by Irvington Group artist Clifton Wheeler.

For much of the 20th century, the theater served as a majestic venue for film and live acts. In 1928, the first movie with sound ever shown in Indianapolis, The Jazz Singer, was shown at the theater. In the 1940s, big band jazz groups, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra, played on the theater’s stage.

By the 1970s, the Circle Theatre had fallen into disrepair as suburban movie theaters were becoming more popular. In 1980, then-commercial real estate broker George Kuhn approached Zane Todd, the chairman and chief executive officer of Indianapolis Power and Light Company (the next-door neighbor to the Circle Theatre), about having IPL buy and renovate the theater for the community. IPL purchased the building, took the lead in the theater's $7 million renovation, and the new home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra became a realization on October 12, 1984."

William H. English built the English Theatre and Opera House in the 1880's. The company and theatre remained in existence until April 20, 1948.

The Indiana Ballroom was built in 1927 as an addition to the Indiana Theatre. The Indiana Theatre hosted a variety of events including: vaudeville shows, plays, orchestra performances, feature full-length motion pictures, and swing dances.


Bodenhamer, David J., Robert G. Barrows, and David G. Vanderstel. The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.

"Hilbert Circle Theatre." Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Accessed January 27, 2016.


2.3 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box, 4 medium oversize boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged alphabetically by theatre and then chronologically. There are six volumes created by the Circle Theatre in oversize boxes.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2016/02/02 by Lauren Patton. EAD finding aid created 2016/02/02 by Lauren Patton.
Indianapolis Theatres collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.