Way back in 1914, the populace of Danville, Indiana, a community just west of Indiana state capital Indianapolis, got its first taste of the new form of storytelling that was sweeping the nation: the motion picture. That was the year Danville’s Royal Theater opened to the public, and the theater’s marquee has been a symbol of downtown Danville ever since. Today, the Royal Theater still shows movies, but it’s become much more than that to the people of Danville. It’s a colorful reminder of the town’s history, a history that’s kept alive by other historic sites in Danville like the Hendricks County Historical Museum and the town’s courthouse, but unlike those examples of turn of the century architecture, the Royal Theater is still alive and well in its original capacity: as the hub of performing arts, music, and movies in Danville.
When the Royal Theater originally opened its doors in 1914, it was solely a movie house, though state of the art for its time. The theater was expanded, redecorated, and modernized in 1926, when it was bought by Thomas J. Barnett. It became a spectacle of the modern media age, with a brand new pipe organ, a stage for live entertainment to compliment the films, a beautiful new marquee (which shines brightly to this day), and enough seating for over 600 theater goers. It was revolutionary in many ways, and was one of the first theaters to feature stadium seating, so everyone present could see the action. It was the place to be in Danville at the time, and not much has changed.
It’s a good thing that Danville is so devoted to the historical landmarks that make up its downtown area; otherwise the Royal Theater might have fallen into disrepair a long time ago. Thankfully, the theatre has been kept alive through various renovations and revitalizations. It still looks exactly as it did in 1926, though it has been updated with modern amenities. Nowadays concerts, plays, and other Danville events take place at the Royal Theater, in addition to the movies that have always been a part of the building. Many Indianapolis bands and local artists have performed at the Royal Theater, in addition to several well known national acts. Groups and performance that have come through the Royal Theater include My Brightest Diamond, Indiana poet laureate Norbert Krapf, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles, and many more.
If you’re at all interested in the history of Danville or the history of the magnificent old theaters that were once commonplace in the United States, visit the Royal Theater in Danville, Indiana. It is still a magnificent example of Tudor architecture in all its lavish glory, with chandeliers, beautiful design, stadium seating, and the iconic marquee. The building has been part of downtown Danville since 1914, and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
The Royal Theater
59 S Washington St
Danville, IN 46122