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Historic Venue Preservation

Historic Venue Preservation

The Power of Human Connection Campaign

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater, also remembered as “The Indiana Theatre,” significantly contributes to the historical importance of the Courthouse Square Historic District in Bloomington. Built in 1922, the theater operated continuously until 1995, showcasing movies and live performances. It was founded by Harry and Nova Vonderschmitt, who also operated several other theaters in Indiana. The Vonderschmitts’ company, Vonderschmitt Amusement Enterprise, was housed in the east commercial space on the street level of the theater.

A 101 year old building with important historical and emotional significance to the Bloomington community needs to be taken care of with thoughtfulness.  Therefore, we’ve partnered with locally-owned Loren Wood Builders to utilize their vast expertise in construction, renovation, and restoration to preserve, restore, and rehabilitate the building both mechanically and aesthetically.  

Contribute to the Historic Venue Preservation Fund

As the only remaining original movie house still operating as an arts venue, our focus on Historic Venue Preservation is a shared community responsibility. Your support of this work is the only way to ensure that Bloomington’s community theater remains functional and well-maintained to ensure its survival for future generations.

After the Vonderschmitt era, Kerasotes Theatres Inc. purchased the theater in 1975. Changes were made, including the addition of doors, a restroom, and a concession stand. Before 1975, patrons could bring candy from the Sweet Shop, which occupied the west commercial space on the street level.

The second floor of the building hosted various enterprises and offices, including those of the Vonderschmitts, the American Cancer Society, Hazel’s Beauty Salon, and Bolen Photography. However, the entire building has been vacant since Kerasotes ceased theater operations in the spring of 1995.

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater is one of Bloomington’s distinguishable landmarks. The Spanish Mission Revival style building has a symmetrical textured stucco facade with two wood and glass storefronts, variegated red and yellow clay tiles, red asphalt shingles, and limestone trim. The most recognizable features are a red-painted marquee with a bow-tie-shaped “Indiana” sign and neon lights.

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Positive Work Culture

Positive Work Culture

The Power of Human Connection Campaign

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater is only as great as our people, so they are worth the investment!

Components of a positive work culture encompass clear expectations for staff, curated training and learning opportunities for personal and career growth, and the ability to adapt to new experiences with trust in the established systems, organization, and leadership. As a nonprofit institution, we know compensation equity and budgeting for external endeavors requires fundraising through grants, sponsorships, and donor support.

Support a Positive Work Culture

In 2024, we will emphasize a Positive Work Culture, recognizing that exceptional staff is instrumental in creating a warm, welcoming, safe, and memorable environment for patrons and performers. Hosting over 250 events annually for more than 50,000 attendees has inspired our goal to establish community leadership in staff satisfaction and performance, aspiring to be a preferred workplace in Bloomington. Achieving this involves maintaining competitive salaries and benefits, offering merit incentives, providing opportunities for staff development, and fostering a collaborative and trusting atmosphere.

During the pandemic, the theater faced a drastic reduction in its staff, dropping from 27 to just three employees maintaining their regular hours. Numerous staff members had to leave, and the remaining full-time staff had to take on part-time roles and seek additional employment while waiting for events to resume. Despite the challenges faced by this people-centric organization, the staff exhibited patience and readiness to return to work. Eventually, six full-time leadership staff members could resume their roles after the pandemic shutdown, preserving a cumulative 22+ years of institutional knowledge and expertise. The average leadership staff member has been at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater for 4-6 years. Well-trained and confident staff contribute to an organization’s positive reputation and highlight the quantifiable cost of turnover, with the potential expense of replacing one leadership staff member reaching as high as $120,000, adding stress to an already small team.

In addition to staff, the theater has a deep roster of passionate volunteers. These volunteers contribute 2,500 hours of support annually, $70,000 in-kind labor! Volunteers contribute to a positive work culture and deserve appreciation, special benefits, and acknowledgment for their valuable contributions.

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Programming Excellence

Programming Excellence

The Power of Human Connection Campaign

In the heart of Bloomington, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater has proudly been the go-to spot for a diverse range of experiences for over a century. We host everything from Grammy Award-winning artists to film premieres and local community events. At the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, our vision is simple yet powerful: to be the place where everyone discovers something that truly resonates with their interests and passions.

Contribute to Programming Excellence

Whether promoted or co-promoted, scheduling events is a balancing act between expected financial sustainability, innovation, and experimentation. Programming Excellence requires support from sponsorships and donations so that the total revenue from blended events (both promoted and rental) is able to cover all business expenses.

What Events Happen at a Community Theater?

Events by Genre

Let’s make 2024 a year of unforgettable experiences together!

So, what’s on the horizon for us in 2024? We’re on a mission to become THE community performance space of Bloomington! Our goal is to fill the annual calendar with a lineup that guarantees excitement and enjoyment for everyone.

We have the valuable opportunity to rent out our space and promote these opportunities to generate consistent income for our theater. This aligns with our overarching goal of establishing ourselves as the premier community performance space in Bloomington. Community events at the theater represent Bloomington culture and span a wide variety of events.

In addition to facilitating community rental events, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater also curates one-third of our events, working closely with artist agencies and community partners to create engaging experiences and foster a deep appreciation for the arts. In 2024, special events include showcasing Hayao Miyazaki’s latest masterpiece, “The Boy And The Heron” and turning up the jazz vibes with a performance by Grammy Award-winning jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny! If you’re curious about our upcoming lineup, visit our Upcoming Events page or subscribe to our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

Learn more about how fundraising is important to our Financial Health and Sustainability focus area here.

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Community Engagement

Community Engagement

The Power of Human Connection Campaign

The Buskirk-Chumley Theater serves as a focal point for the essence of Bloomington, weaving together every event into a tapestry that reflects the city’s values. As a venue where history is made, and culture evolves, we must foster an open, inclusive environment that authentically represents Bloomington and its residents.

Support the Community Engagement Fund

Nearly 70% of our events involve collaboration with external partners, whether arts organizations, IU departments, engaged couples, or the City of Bloomington. Regardless of the renter’s identity, our staff provides professional service and ensures the seamless execution of every event. We make our space available to anyone looking to share or present something to an audience, solidifying our role as a versatile and high-quality venue for the arts and local culture.

In reflecting on our role over the years, we’ve pondered how to amplify our community’s vibrant, creative, and diverse voices. Our commitment to community engagement is a proactive effort to lead the ongoing cultural evolution. Our heightened focus is on understanding the community’s needs and leveraging our position to connect people and ideas.

Community engagement is a collective effort, and we invite input and feedback to enhance our transparency and openness about our goals. Through initiatives like this series, we aim to build trust and convey our dedication to serving the people of Bloomington.

Your insights are crucial as we continually strive to improve our services for you, Bloomington! How can we better achieve that? Submit suggestions in the box below or sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page to receive periodic surveys.

How Are We Planning to Support the Community in 2024?

In 2024, we’re launching a program that removes the rental cost barrier for smaller organizations in our free-rental program. Recognizing Bloomington’s abundance of nonprofit organizations and social service agencies, we’ve secured funding to cover the costs of ten free rental events in 2024. If successful, we plan to seek donor support to sustain this initiative.

Other programs include our new Community Corner in the Box Office, a local musician concert series streamed live on the radio, and a collaborative public workshop on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) in the nonprofit sector.

We are actively seeking funding for these programs, so please donate to support Community Engagement below if you want to see this work in action! If you’re interested in sponsoring a program, please get in touch with our Philanthropy Director at to learn more.

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Financial Health and Sustainability

Financial Health and Sustainability

Financial Health and Sustainability

The Power of Human Connection Campaign

The Theater relies on various sources of income to sustain its operations. Before the pandemic, programming income, comprising ticket sales, concessions, and rental fees, averaged 79%. However, this figure was only 52% last year, up from 26% in 2021 when the pandemic peaked, but one thing is sure: programming income will never cover 100% of necessary business expenses. If it did, we could not fulfill our mission to lead the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Bloomington’s most historic performance venue, to harness the power of human connection, create engaging experiences, and foster a deep appreciation for the arts.

Instead, our incorporation as a 501(c)3 organization allows us to offer community programming with public funding, including local artists and free public events, and bridge the gap between programming income and necessary business expenses with grants, charitable donations, and a small management contract with the City of Bloomington.

In 2024, we are improving our communications with you about the importance of your support, creating more opportunities to engage corporate sponsorships, and enhancing our fundraising program with more ways to give. We can work together to strengthen the theater’s financial health for the future.

Support the Buskirk-Chumley Theater

Join us in securing a future filled with creativity, entertainment, and community engagement. Together, we can sustain the arts and keep the spirit of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater alive.

What Funds the Theater?

The charts below show the Theater’s income trends over the past five years and the effect of the pandemic on operational costs and revenue. As the gap grows between the cost of production and earned revenue, public funding has become more critical than ever in ensuring the theater stays locally managed and community-focused.

Total Income by Category Since 2018

2018-2022 Buskirk-Chumley Theater Income

Hover over each point for details or to expand. You can view raw data here.

Breakdown of Income by Type in 2022

Hover over each point for details or to expand. You can view raw data here.

Total Expenses by Category Since 2018

2018-2022 Buskirk-Chumley Theater Expenses

Hover over each point for details or to expand. You can view raw data here.

Change in Expenses: Pre-Pandemic vs 2022

Pre-Pandemic vs 2022 Expenses

Hover over each point for details or to expand. You can view raw data here.

What’s Changing in 2024?

We are turning to you to show us how much value the Buskirk-Chumley Theater provides to our community. Your support ensures the continued operation of the Theater as a nonprofit and demonstrates your desire for a community venue in the heart of Bloomington. By donating, you become crucial to preserving a cultural hub that enriches our community through diverse and vibrant programming.

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Invest in the Power of Human Connection

How Will the 2nd Decade of the 21st Century be Remembered? 

The 1920s were marked by a thirst for renewal, a break from tradition, and a celebration of artistry in all its forms. In the 21st century, we find ourselves at a similar crossroads, yearning for a new golden age of cultural engagement that reflects our time, values, and boundless potential.

Join us for the Buskirk-Chumley Theater’s Power of Human Connection Campaign this week! The theater is uniquely positioned at this moment to usher in a new era of prosperity through harnessing the power of human connection and the arts.

Shape the Future with Us

The Power of Human Connection Campaign is not just about looking back; it’s about embracing the future. By reimagining cultural dynamics for the 21st century, we can pave the way for a world defined by creativity, inclusivity, and limitless possibilities.

In the last century, the Vonderschmidt Family joined their peers in fronting the dream that became the Golden Age of entertainment. The movie houses of the past have since evolved, and so has the economy.

In this post-Covid world, nonprofits use the power of philanthropy to raise capital to benefit social good. As a 501(c)3 organization, this era of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater is owned by YOU and your fellow supporters. Gone are the days of the Andrew Carnegies and John Rockefellers, instead, you and your peers are going to be the investors of the next era of unparalleled creativity. This is your chance to illustrate the power of human connection at work!

Join Bloomington’s Cultural Investors
Your financial support will help us create memorable theater experiences, produce innovative performances, and ensure that culture remains at the forefront of our society.

Participate in the Revolution
Immerse yourself in our local arts community, experience history-shaping performances, and be a part of the cultural revolution firsthand.

Spread the Vision
Help us by sharing our campaign on social media and beyond. Together, we can inspire others to invest in this cultural renaissance.

Contribute Your Skills
If you have expertise in art, technology, or innovation, consider volunteering your talents to help shape the future.

Join us on this extraordinary journey as we ignite a cultural shift that will define our era. Together, we will create a new cultural paradigm that resonates for generations to come. Invest today, and let’s make history together!