Unlike many of the larger scale theaters around the state, the Circle Theatre was designed in the Neo-Classical style instead of the Spanish Revival Style. Since it was constructed in 1916, it predates many of these other theaters, and the full glamour and escapism of motion pictures had not yet hit. The Circle Theater was one of the first “deluxe movie palaces” in the Midwest built specifically for feature-length movies. Located on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis, it fills a portion of the southeast quadrant of the Circle.
Architects Preston Rubush and Edgar Hunter designed the main façade to follow the curves of the road therefore the façade is concave. Covered in white terra cotta, there are a series of subtle exterior decorative features--simple molded panels, a bracketed cornice and pediment across the top, rosettes and swag garlands. However the marquee and a restored Grecian mural dominate the façade. The relatively subdued decorative scheme carries over to the interior. Shades of rose, ivory, and gray prevail throughout. There are plaster moldings and Greek figurines but the senses are not overwhelmed like they would be in a later theater.
The Circle Theatre continued to host movies, concerts, and live acts until 1981 when it began to suffer from increased competition due to suburban multiplexes. It was facing demolition when a series of Indianapolis organizations banded together to save it. In 1982, the Circle underwent a major restoration and celebrated its re-opening in 1984 as the home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO). Indianapolis Power and Light owned the property but they leased it to the Symphony. In 1990, the Symphony was able to purchase the Theatre, and, in 1996, it was renamed to Hilbert Circle Theatre. The ISO retains ownership today.