Preservation, Road trips

The Indiana Theatre: A crown jewel of Terre Haute

Tucked quietly into the corner of 7th and Ohio Streets in Terre Haute is this grand and gorgeous theater.

Indiana Theater

Minolta XG 1, 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor, Fujicolor 200, 2017

Opened in 1922 and designed by John Emerson in Spanish Andalusian style, this is considered the first theater in the nation to embody “atmospheric” theater design, which recreated exotic foreign locales. This style quickly became common and characterized many theaters built during the 1920s.

Indiana Theater

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

The versatile Indiana has hosted vaudeville, movies, live theater, and music events throughout its life. But when I lived in Terre Haute, from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, it was a dollar theater. It showed The Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight every Friday; I still remember many of the audience-participation lines. A girlfriend and I saw a fair number of movies here because it was a cheap date. I especially remember seeing Born on the Fourth of July here, because on the theater’s enormous screen (54 by 33 feet, the second largest in the state, I’m told) the film’s violence and gore chased us away long before the movie ended.

Inside the Indiana

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

I haven’t set foot inside the Indiana in more than 20 years. This is the only interior photo I’ve taken, of the atrium behind the box office. What awaits behind those doors is truly stunning — and was even during the dollar-theater days, when the building had fallen into some disrepair. The second balcony, for example, was permanently closed because of rumored structural issues. But since 2013 the building has been renovated and restored. Check out the theater’s Wikipedia page to see some of its gorgeous interior today.

The theater is now primarily an event center. Seats on the floor in front of the stage were removed in favor of tables, which lets the venue host meetings and parties. Taking a look at the venue’s calendar, I see live theater, weddings, and a rock concert booked in the near future.

Indiana Theater

Minolta XG 1, 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor, Fujicolor 200, 2017

I try to stop by the Indiana for photographs every time I visit downtown Terre Haute. I’d love to see just one more dollar movie here. And I’d bring a good camera and photograph the interior extensively.

Indiana Detail

Konica C35, Fujicolor 200, 2013

But I, and by extension you, will have to be satisfied with these exterior shots. And so finally, here’s a long shot of 7th Street from Wabash Avenue, the famous Crossroads of America, where US 40 and US 41 once intersected. The Indiana truly is tucked tidily into the Terre Haute streetscape. Do you see it there?

Southbound Old US 41

Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom, 2009

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14 thoughts on “The Indiana Theatre: A crown jewel of Terre Haute

  1. I had no idea that such a jewel existed in Terre Haute. It’s amazing that it survived, as so many of those grand old theaters did not.
    Fort Wayne’s Embassy Theatre is another that has made it. One of the most memorable movies of my life was in the 70s when I saw the silent Phantom of the Opera there with accompaniment by the amazing pipe organ that was original to the building.

    You remind me that I have yet to see Rocky Horror. At this late date, I think I’ll just keep the streak going.

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  2. Dan Cluley says:

    What a magnificent building. It hadn’t occurred to me until now, but corner theatres seem to have been quite rare.

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  3. Twice in my lifetime my dad has been the lead craftsman on restoring the interior of the Indiana Theater. When I was a child he created a mold to recreate all the interior cherubs and plaster moldings. When that project was done there was a weekend celebration where they showed all the Star Wars movies back to back, then the Star Trek movies back to back. It’s incredible inside now. He gives tours to various art & architecture students at ISU.

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  4. Ward Fogelsanger says:

    I saw several movies at the Indiana after I got my drivers license… Mash comes to mind( our own Lyric Theatre in Casey burned in 1962 I think). I think there was another downtown theatre ( the Grand?) also. By the early 70’s there was a multiplex at Honey Creek Square…

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    • There were two other downtown theaters that I know of, one on Ohio and one on Wabash. Neither was still a theater when I arrived in 1985. The one on Wabash actually housed the presses for the Tribune-Star, but has since been demolished.

      I saw a fair number of movies down at Honey Creek.

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  5. It is such good news that they found a modern use for such a beautiful building without destroying its interior or atmosphere. I hope you get inside to get some pics. I’m sure they will be better than the ones on Wikipedia.!

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  6. Kevin Thomas says:

    I love the old theaters. We have a great one here in Austin, the Paramount (originally the Majestic. It too has been restored to former glory, and hosts music, theater and movies. One of the things I look for in the small market towns around is whether or not the old theater survives, and fortunately many of them have and are being revitilized. I love photographing old buildings in small towns.

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