Fox Theatre

240 N. Illinois Street,
Indianapolis, IN 46204

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Sullivan & Considine

Architects: Edgar Otis Hunter, Preston C. Rubush

Firms: Rubush & Hunter

Styles: Colonial Revival

Previous Names: Colonial Theatre, Empress Theatre, Fox Burlesque Theatre

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Fox Theatre

Opened as the Colonial Theatre on Thanksgiving weekend (November 22) of 1909. First presenting vaudeville, then movies. A Robert Morton 2 manual organ was installed on May 29, 1927. In 1929 it became a burlesque theatre, and on April 2, 1937 was briefly renamed Empress Theatre, until December 25 1937 when it was renamed Fox Theatre, still presenting burlesque.

It was eventually turned into a porn theatre screening adult movies which closed in late-December 1975. There were plans proposed to convert it into the Victoria Palace Dinner Theatre, but these never came about and the building was demolished in September/October 1979. Today the site is the location of the American United Life Insurance building on N. Illinois Street.

Contributed by Rod Sims

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis says that this theater was briefly known as the Empress Theatre from April, 1937, until December of that year, when it became the Fox Theatre.

Here is a photo, probably from the late 1930s.

This earlier photo of the house as the Colonial shows what must be an end wall of the auditorium. It was a sizable theater which probably extended the length of the hotel building in front of it, and must have originally had more than the 300 seats currently listed above.

Here’s an interior photo showing the doors leading from the foyer onto the main floor of the auditorium.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on June 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Here’s the beginning of something I came across written on a website about this theater:

“I wasn’t married yet in the very early 60’s when I first discovered the famous Fox Theater on N. Illinois Street in Indianapolis…..but later, when I was married, I still went there! I was actually still in high school, but they let me in anyway……and I had lots of experiences there that will be worth repeating. At that time it was a (very famous, locally) burlesque theater, and just as exciting (for some) when it became a porno movie palace in later years. Real on-stage performances by such ‘names’ at the time as "Evelyn West and her $50,000 Treasure Chest.”

But I soon learned that the REAL excitement was down in the basement — a cavernous, giant restroom area that required a very squeaky door and a long stairway to enter. And I soon found out that no one paid much attention (maybe a raised eyebrow or two?) when they heard that door squeak at the top of the stairway. The place was wide open, and many a straight guy, there only to get off by watching the bosom of the latest burlesque queen flopping around upstairs, would barely glance to the bathroom stalls to the left as he made his way to the urinal to take a leak. He knew what was going on over there — no one tried too hard to hide the action, and sometimes the activity spilled out to the large floor space in front of the stalls…

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm

It’s likely that the Colonial Theatre was designed by Rubush & Hunter. The July 30, 1910, issue of The American Contractor said that the owners of the Colonial Theatre, which was under lease to the Sullivan & Considine vaudeville circuit, were contemplating alterations to the house, and that Rubush & Hunter would draw the plans for the project. It seems likely that if the theater was being remodeled only a year after it opened that the original architects would be hired to design the project. The Colonial Revival detailing of the facade was certainly characteristic of the firm’s work.

Matthew Prigge
Matthew Prigge on November 9, 2012 at 7:41 pm

If anyone has any stories about going to/ working at this threatre in its adult days, I would love to hear them. I am chronicling the histories of adult theatres in the US. Please contact me at Thanks!

DavidAE on August 6, 2014 at 8:41 am

Historic Indianapolis has a new article on the Fox.

rivest266 on October 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Opening ad as Colonial on April 12th, 1915 can be found in the Photo section. more Indy ads to come.

rivest266 on October 25, 2015 at 9:15 pm

December 25th, 1937 grand opening ad as Fox in photo section.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on August 21, 2020 at 6:19 pm

Despite the name, this never had a corporate connection with the showbiz empire that started with William Fox and grew into such entities as Fox Theatre Circuit, Fox Films, and 20th Century-Fox. Burlesque attracted just as many foxes as it did wolves to its presentations.

dallasmovietheaters on December 13, 2021 at 3:29 pm

The Fox Theater was demolished along with its shared building operation, the York Hotel, in September and October of 1979.

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