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The Fulton County Courthouse holds the distinction of being one of the most recognized structural landmarks in the downtown area, but the iconic marquee of The Times Theater is surely a close second. The distinguished signage has been completely refurbished as of 2023 and will remain a notable fixture on Main Street for future generations; a neon beacon for a vintage movie-house whose history stretches back to the Roaring Twenties. On Valentine’s Day, 1924, the Char-Bell Theater opened to a packed house in Rochester. Though not the town’s first theater, it quickly proved to be the most popular. An 800-seat capacity venue, the Char-Bell featured the silent films and vaudeville acts of the day, in addition to other live performances over the years. In 1941, the theater changed its owners and its name, becoming The Times Theater, and the new marquee followed soon after. The Times remained almost continuously in business afterwards, changing owners periodically, and remodeling and updating their equipment and amenities as the era and the viewers’ tastes changed through the years.


The Times Theater continued to feature live events, such as dance recitals, through the 1960’s, and in the 1970’s, the auditorium was divided in order to have two active screens to offer movie patrons more choices. The new century brought new challenges as audiences’ entertainment choices began to expand. Cable television, home video, and the internet led to less interest in paying for something that could be experienced in their own living rooms. The movie industry responded by introducing and utilizing new technologies, but the cost prohibitive updated equipment and the dwindling audiences were a one-two punch that The Times was unable to recover from, and the theater closed its door in January of 2014.

On Valentine's Day 2023, 99 years after the original opening, The Times Theater once again opened its doors to the public!

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In 2016, The Times Theater Revitalization Project was born when a group of Rochester citizens agreed that the Main Street mainstay could be restored as a nostalgic venue for live music, movies, and community events. After organizing as a not-for-profit entity, the group began some of the preliminary work on the venue’s interior.


Much took place behind the scenes of the Times Theater over the past couple of years thanks to the Northern Indiana Community Foundation and to the many gifts from generous donors like you, Some of the larger structural items include replacement of the roof over the theater portion of the building and proper abatement of all asbestos. The iconic stage has received new structural support so it now meets all State requirements for occupancy and use. Of course, the most visible update was the marquee which has been brought back to life and is shining brighter than ever!


Plumbing systems in the existing restrooms have been updated and an addition of an ADA accessible restroom has been added for our guests as well as required seating areas for the ADA. Both furnaces have been serviced and found to be in proper working order (although one of the units is very old). A concrete curb was added around the perimeter of the building to halt the penetration of groundwater from downspouts and the separation of brick from the building and the asphalt in the alleys. Exit signs have been added and new emergency lighting as required by local code has been installed

The ticket booth is open and the lobby shines as never before with one of a kind artwork by local artists and legends, Jim Scott and Angie Anderson. The concession stand is fully stocked and the smell of freshly made popcorn fills the amazingly decorated lobby. We could not be more proud! Enter the theater to enjoy events as never before in this venue; custom table seating atrea and extra room to stretch your legs in the theater seats.

We have come so far! We can't wait to see what's next! 


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