The Circle Theater opened in 1916 as the city's first “movie palace” - and one of the first such buildings in the Midwest. Today it is the second oldest building on Monument Circle after Christ Church Cathedral, and is home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The theater was designed by the prominent local firm of Rubush and Hunter in a Neoclassical Revival style. The exterior is in white terra cotta, featuring a frieze of classical Greek figures. Inside, a detailed bas-relief proscenium, plaster molding throughout the house, and other details render the interior among the most historic in the city. In fact, the interior is one of only two interiors in the entire city granted historic landmark status and official city protection.
The 3,100 seat theater showed movies for 65 years. But like almost all movie palaces, it fell on hard times as development patterns and tastes changed. The building was briefly closed in 1981 and was vacant until it was purchased and renovated by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for use as their new concert hall. It now seats 1,781 people for concerts. The ISO is the largest performing arts organization in the state and one of only 15 full time orchestras nationwide.
The theater was renamed after Stephen Hilbert, a local businessman, and his wife Tomisue, in 1996, after they pledged $10 million towards a building endowment.