Indianapolis Vogue used to be a movie theater

Indianapolis Vogue used to be a movie theater

Vogue has been an icon at 6259 N. College Ave. for nearly a century. Every marquee change told a new story to the Broad Ripple neighborhood, and every artist brought a new twist to the Indianapolis music scene. But music isn’t the only language spoken by the famous venue.

Vogue has a long history of taking audiences to new places – before music, from 1938 to 1977 with films. Broad Ripple natives look back with fondness and nostalgia at this time, which so often only the film can evoke.

“I just remember it was that big,” said Cynthia Boggs-Lawson, who grew up in Broad Ripple. She first visited Vogue in 1961 for a friend’s birthday when they saw “West Side Story”. “I’m just 12 years old, so you know, just when I went to a theater like this for the first time, I was just in awe of it.”

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The theater helped people fall in love not only with movies but with their community as well.

“I loved (West Side Story),” said Boggs-Lawson. “I’ve seen this movie several times and each time I think about when I went to the Vogue Theater to see it. It brings back a lot of memories. “’

On a Marion County history Facebook group, people recalled their visits to Vogue: “I remember when I was at a movie theater,” one man wrote. I got ‘Let It Be by the Beatles!’ Seen. “

“I rode my bike there on Saturdays to see the matinee with my friends,” said one woman.

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Friz Garrison remembers seeing his first movie there when he was 7 years old. And while he wasn’t a movie buff at that age, the theater provided a place for Garrison and his group of friends to congregate in their elementary school years in the 1960s.

“We’ve been there a lot,” said Garrison. “We’d sneak out the back door of Vogue, down that little alley back there … If someone went out, we’d go in,” Garrison recalled with a laugh.

Alley behind the Vogue Theater in 2012

“It was a popular theater … This group of us friends, we always, were always looking for something to do, and Broad Ripple seemed like the place.”

Broad Ripple has proven itself to be a busy, popular place over the years – and Vogue has played a key role. From the 1910s to the 1920s, the advent of automobiles and major home sales spurred suburbanization and helped Broad Ripple begin its transformation “into the neighborhood we know today,” said Jordan Ryan of the History Concierge, an architectural history research firm in Indianapolis. The Vogue Theater first opened in 1938, in keeping with the region’s economic boom and growing population.

Vogue celebrates its 40th anniversary as a music venue on December 31st.

“This is one form of entertainment that residents of your central business district can seek, which, as you know, we know as Broad Ripple Avenue,” said Ryan of the main forms of entertainment at the time before television was invented. “

According to Ryan, Vogue was one of 57 theaters in Indianapolis in 1938. According to his obituary, the founder Carl Niesse, originally from Madison, Indiana, worked his way up from theater servant to theater owner. He was also a carnival worker and writer for vaudeville comics before opening The Vogue. “A lifelong ambition will be realized after almost 30 years in show business when Carl Niesse opens the doors of his new Vogue theater,” read a newspaper article from June 1938.

Ken Maynard,

An old flyer for The Vogue advertised:

“Enjoy great entertainment in luxurious comfort”

“Relax in deep air-cushioned chairs”

“Take advantage of the largest theater parking lot in Indianapolis – free for Vogue guests”

Vogue was one of the first theaters to offer air conditioning and had a capacity of 500 cars, “the largest free parking space of any movie”. It was also reported to be the first neighborhood theater to feature female ushers.

Tickets cost 25 cents for adults and 15 cents for children. In 1938, the minimum hourly wage was 25 cents, and today, adjusted for inflation, it’s about $ 4.45. The first film shown was College Swing, starring Martha Raye and Bobe Hope, according to online Vogue history.

In addition to free parking spaces and air conditioning, Niesse was also innovative in its selection of films. He got rid of the popular “double functions” for a while and experimented with individual functions where the theater only showed one film instead of two.

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The “noble experiment” worked for a few months, but Niesse eventually reverted to the dual feature when he found it could increase ticket sales by 30%. “Win double features,” said an October 1938 newspaper article.

Over time, as films came and went, the theater continued to develop. In October 1948 a new sound system was installed, which is supposed to promise the audience greater “listening pleasure”. In July 1948, Vogue celebrated its tenth anniversary with a screening of the color film “Albuquerque” with Randolph Scott and Barbara Britton. In the 1950s, Vogue offered matinees on Saturday afternoons, which were also a delight for the children and parents in the neighborhood.

“Mom could drop us off knowing we’d be safe and well entertained while she’s out shopping in a few hours. I think she gave us 50 cents for the afternoon, ”wrote Brandt Carter in the Broad Ripple Gazette. “Saturday films were the best! We went in in full daylight and came out at dusk in the winter months. The theaters were so enticing with their dual functions, cartoons, snacks and the whispering of nearly 600 children (no guardians) – the only adults were the ushers … Oh, what wonderful memories were made. “

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In 1954 Niesse sold the theater. With the popularity of television, theaters lost their business as guests preferred the convenience of home entertainment.

“At this point, some of these theaters are showing adult movies,” said Ryan.

Vogue made this transition in the early 1970s and continued as a theater until its final moments. Ryan found evidence that the theater briefly showed pornographic films in 1977, the final year of the establishment, while waiting to be licensed to drink alcohol and turn into the music venue.

The Indianapolis Star, June 20, 1948

The last film curtain was on December 31, 1977 when the theater officially became a night club. Since then, The Vogue has hosted a variety of musicians and bands, including Willie Nelson, The Ramones, Blondie, and Johnny Cash.

A new generation is now enjoying the sounds of Vogue and making memories just like the old one. A “rock and roll nerd,” Jordan said Ryan was most excited about the venue’s rich musical heritage.

“I’ve seen old rock and roll dad bands, I’ve seen ska bands there, I’ve seen Fleetwood Mac cover bands,” said Ryan. “I love cover bands. It’s a pleasure.”

“The cool thing about The Vogue is that it’s uniquely big … it’s big enough to attract and pay for national acts, but it’s still small enough to feel like an intimate performance, and I think that is why it is so successful and has outlived many other venues. “

Contact IndyStar trend reporter Rashika Jaipuriar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @rashikajpr.