History of the Irving Theater

the Irving Theater   |   5505 East Washington Street   |   Indianapolis

the beginning

opening day
Irving Theater 1915 The theater opened on Wednesday, December 3rd by H. L. Whitehead of Idle Hour Amusement Company.  The theater was erected by the Guthrie-Thompson Company at a cost of $15,000.  The house had 525 seats and “every appliance to make a perfect picture”.  The theater ran as a 10-cent house and showed films form the General Film Company.  Irvington citizens were asked to submit names for the theater to a committee composed of Judge Charles J. Orbison, J. W. Putnam and Charles M. Cross.  The theater was originally built as a single-story theater in a Spanish style with an oriental motif.

the first year
On March 14th, Proprietor W. Drollinger passed out a hand bill asking Irvington residents to patronize the theater during the week so that as they wish, the theater would need not be open on Sundays.

roaring twenties

expansion and renovation
Irving Theater 1927 The property was purchased by Charles Walker and underwent a major renovation enhancing the look and feel of the street corner.  Renovations included adding a second story to the front of the theater for a fire-proof projection room and two additional rooms, approximately 50 feet was added to the rear of the original theater increasing the capacity to 600 and in some publications 725 seats.  Work also included the addition along Johnson Avenue of three commercial units with three apartment units on the second floor.  The lobbies of the original theater were also converted into two small storefront shops that faced East Washington Street.

nifty fifties

more renovation
Irving Theater 1950S Still under the ownership of the Charles Walker family, the theater again underwent a renovation.  This renovation included the modernizing of both the interior and exterior.  Exterior improvements included the removal of the East Washington Street canopy and and the addition of carrera-style glass.  It was also during this period that a small parking lot was added at the rear of the property with access from Johnson Avenue.

swinging seventies

end of an era
Irving Theater C.1975 The Walker family sold the Irving Theater in 1969 to a group of investors.  As the story goes, of the three Chicago investors, one was never seen again, one backed out of the partnership and one, Steve Toushin, operated the theater under the Festival name as a XXX movie house.  Angry Irvingtonians and City officials tried for 10 years through various legal proceedings to close the Festival Theater.  The theater finally stopped showing XXX movies in 1979.

the rebirth begins

Zenon I Theater
The theater reopened as the Zenon I Theater showing second run movies and having some live music performances.

the new Irving
Irving Theater 1987 In 1987 the theater was purchased by a group of Irvington businessmen and reopened in October of 1987 again as the Irving Theater.  The Irving again achieved great success this time as a foreign and art film house, many nights filling to capacity.  The opening of the Castleton Art Cinema caused a change in direction to second run movies, a drastic reduction in patrons and eventual demise of the Irving as a movie theater.

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