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Rivoli Theatre –
Indianapolis, Indiana 47710
Can be found on the East side of Indianapolis,
in the old downtown section, a neighborhood which was once a thriving commercial
district in the earlier part of the 20th century and is now in the process of
getting a much needed face lift through the restoration and renovation process,
thanks to several organizations efforts. The city recognizes the value of these
fine old buildings as being an important part of their history, and will restore
them to their original beauty.
of Street Front of Building and Lobby area
The Rivoli Theatre is found in a huge building,
with four store fronts in the front, 2 on each side of the theatre. On the east
side of the building is a large apartment, separate from the theatre itself, where
the owners/theatre managers have lived.
Rivoli Theatre was designed and built to be large, long-lasting, safe and practical,
yet beautiful, using skilled craftsmen and the finest materials available in 1927.
The architect, Henry Ziegler Dietz, had an eye for beauty, as well as skill in
creating structural soundness and practicality in his buildings, most notably
in The Rivoli Theatre. One finds "Indiana limestone, fine sweet gum woodworking,
leaded glass windows with copper window sashes, and solid brass door fittings."
floors in the theatre and in the entryway as well were made of Georgia white and
Riviera black terrazzo. The rest rooms have ivory fixtures. The walls of the auditorium
were decorated with "decorative plastered egg-and-dart" patterns. The
large dome ceiling has a tulip-patterned border around its edges, and the two
organ chambers have "intricate wooden and plaster grillwork" on their
The large theatre auditorium seats
1,500 guests, who can look up in the domed-ceiling mentioned above and see lights
which resembled stars flickering away. Not only was the theatre designed for large
screen movies, but also theatrical stage productions, with the largest stage in
the city, with a back stage area/dressing rooms, an orchestra pit and two organ
chambers near stage right and stage left.
The Rivoli Theatre was designed and built to be large, long-lasting, safe and
practical, yet beautiful, using the finest materials used in 1927. The theatre's
architect, Henry Ziegler Dietz went to work and designed and built a first class,
Spanish mission styled theatre, with the orders of the President of Universal
Pictures Corporation as his guide and inspiration. For Carl Laemmie Jr. told Dietz
that this theatre must stand the ravages of time, "serve the community well
and to provide the best the motion picture industry had to offer."
glorious Universal Pictures Rivoli Theatre became a favorite place for the people
of Indianapolis to come to the movies, see the newsreels of current events, relax
and forget life's trials and enjoy the feature film or musical concert or production.
People would wear their best clothes, enjoy some ice cream in one of the shops
in front, located either on the left or right of the theatre, though still in
the same large building.
Despite the high
cost of putting in sound projectors and the hardship of the depression during
the '30s, Universal Pictures managed to hold onto this theatre until 1937, when
the theatre was sold to private owners.
1937 to 1976, this grand theatre received little upkeep and renovation, but continued
to faithfully serve the community of Indianapolis while surviving a succession
of owners, and being closed for short time periods, thanks to the brilliant architect
work of Henry Ziegler Dietz and the high standards demanded by Carl Laemmie Jr.
in the first place.
The phenomenal acoustics
of the auditorium helped to keep the place solvent. Live concerts from a variety
of artists kept the place hopping for a time. Such artists as John Mellencamp,
Gino Vannelli, Billy Cobham, George Duke, Quiet Riot, Joan Baez have entertained
in this theatre.
A few years before it closed,
the theatre was looking a bit long in the tooth, despite the owner's efforts.
Adult films made a home here, which surely caused Carl Laemmie Jr and Henry Ziegler
Dietz to spin in their graves, not to mention raising the ire of people in the
community. The theatre once again closed, but has a bright future still!
the theatre is now closed, it will be renovated and used by this community again.
With the help of The Near East Side Community Organization, The East 10th Street
Civic Association and the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, this grand
theatre is destined to shine as a multi-use community arts center, the center
piece of the East 10th Street district. Like many cities across the United States,
people value the old town sections and strive to restore them, drawing people
and commerce to these parts of cities once again.
It seems that The Rivoli Theatre was the home of entities from
the time it opened, and has attracted a few others throughout its long history.
1) The land where The Rivoli Theatre and its
building was built upon, had been a farm. A farm house and family burial plot
had exited right on this spot. But before this time period, this same plot of
land had been an Indian burial plot.
Through some investigation, it was discovered that the people who lived in the
farm house experienced paranormal activity in their house and on the property.
Past Hauntings in the Auditorium -
Past owners have opened the theatre for business, and much to their surprise they
found people already sitting in the auditorium. Rushing down the isles to confront
them, imagine their shock when these nonpaying customers melt away before their
b) One apparition of a man dressed in
his evening finery has been seen frantically running up and down the isles, through
the seat rows and then disappearing into the wall!
Recent Haunting Reports with the current owner
the present owner bought this grand old theater in 1976, he scoffed at the stories
that the theater was haunted, saying that overactive imaginations had created
these supposed haunting incidents. After some personal encounters, this owner
has changed his mind, but is willing to live with the reality that his theatre
was host to some nonpaying entities, who love this old theatre as much as he does.
a) Incidents in Auditorium under
management of the new owner - Imagine his surprise when who he thought were the
first people in for the showing of a film, returned to report to him that he was
mistaken: There was already a couple seated. The man was dressed in an old fashioned
tux and the woman was wearing a lovely white dress. In disbelief, the owner ran
to the auditorium and discovered no one else living was seated. It wasn't possible
for anyone to quickly leave that fast, unless they were life-like apparitions
of the theatres' entities. This became a common occurrence.
Ladies' Powder & Rest Room - Women patrons reported incidences of being alone
in the bathroom, hearing the toilet flush, seeing the door to the stall open and
close, watch the ivory faucets turn on and off, without any help! Sometimes this
entity, a woman appears in solid form in this bathroom, fooling the living in
thinking that she is a real person. Then, she suddenly disappears for chuckles
as the living become unnerved.
c) A lady apparition
has been seen standing on the stairs which lead up to the projection room.
seems that the entities have been rather rude and difficult with the theatre's
employees, making a high turnover rate a reality.
Employees have been pushed by an unseen presence. Employees have learned not to
clean the auditorium alone.
b) People in charge
of cleanup have had the unsettling experience of watching buckets and cleaning
supplies move by themselves. Either an unseen presence is trying to be helpful
or is doing it for chuckles!
c) After cleaning
the lobby, the cleaning crew went into the auditorium to continue. When they came
back into the lobby, they found a smoking cigarette in the ash tray urn found
in the lobby. No one who smoked was in the theatre or was involved with the clean
2) Personal Experiences
of the Current Owner - Doing repairs before or after hours of business.
Basement - Boiler Room - While down in the basement, working on the boiler, the
owner received a hug of appreciation around his waist from behind by an unseen
presence, feeling the cold arms and hands from an appreciative entity; probably
a woman - which inspired the current owner to make a quick beeline lickity split
canter up the stairs to the main floor, through the auditorium to the lights.
b) While in the projection booth, the owner
was making repairs and saw out of the corner of his eye a female presence standing
there watching him. Thinking it was one of the female staff, he asked her to pick
up a tool he needed which was out of his reach. When nothing happened, he looked
and saw nothing. He then remembered that his staff weren't due there until later.
While inspecting the roof of the theatre, the new owner fell through part of the
roof which opened up when he stepped on it. Presence(s) physically stopped his
certain death, by moving his feet so he landed on a supporting truss, instead
of free-falling 85 feet to the theatre floor below.
Items in the theatre apartment have been moved around and some have gone missing.
When the theatre was still
open, a movie camera was set up in the auditorium and left on one night. On the
film one sees a bright light form and grow until a figure is seen which then moves
out of camera range.
Rivoli Theatre page at CinemaTreasures.org * Rivole Theatre page at PrairieGhosts.com * Rivoli Theatre home page
closed because of massive renovation and refurbishing.