At one time, they were beacons in the downtowns of both small and large cities, their neon signs and marquees advertising—imagine this— double features, air conditioning and buttered popcorn—the real butter kind.
Starting with silent movies and moving into the talkies, every town had at least one movie house. That was, of course, in the days before Cineplexes and sprawling suburban malls. Slowly the bright lights went out, movies with big-name stars no longer played and finally, downtown theaters began to close their doors.
But that was then. Cinema buffs and architectural preservationists now see how old movie theaters can help lead the way to revitalizing downtowns. And so the Indiana landscape is dotted with renovated gems. Many now show first-run movies; others a mixture of old and new, while still others revert back to Vaudeville days with live events (albeit with a more modern twist) and also show movies as well.
The Artcraft Theatre in downtown Franklin originally opened in 1922 as a silent movie and Vaudeville
theater, complete with an orchestra pit and full stage with dressing rooms below. Now, the theater hosts movies including vintage films and events, including live bands, and was “instrumental in helping re- invigorate the city’s downtown,” says Rob Shilts, executive director of the Franklin Heritage Inc. and the Historic Artcraft Theatre. “Unlike many of Indiana’s cinemas of that period, the Artcraft was never totally abandoned or allowed to fall apart,” says Shilts, noting that it’s the most intact Art Deco movie house in Central Indiana and is listed on the Indiana State Register of Historic Places.
For more information visit historicartcrafttheatre.org