Fact Friday 252 - History of the Gem Theater

Fact Friday 252 - History of the Gem Theater

Happy Friday!


The Gem Theatre, known as the Showplace of Kannapolis, is one of the oldest single-screen movie theaters in continuous operation today. 

Magazine article displaying the original projection room, marquee and seating of Kannapolis' newest theater. 1937. 

The theater originally opened on December 31, 1936. A few years later, in 1942, it was gutted by fire and the theater was reduced to ashes. The theater was rebuilt in 1948 and featured a beautiful lobby and 916 seats, including the balcony section. The Gem has been open ever since. The Gem is also one of only a few movie theaters that offers balcony seating. 

View from the balcony of the newly restored Gem Theatre. The theater had burned down in 1942. 1948.

A fire of unknown origin gutted the back section of the Gem Theatre on February 21, 1942. Only the front part was saved along with the projection room upstairs. Because of World War II, materials were not available to rebuild; however, the concession stand area was used for the distribution of ration coupons. Cannon Mills Company, who owned the property, had it rebuilt with an opening date of Monday, March 15, 1948. Opening picture was “You Were Meant for Me,” featuring Jeanne Crain and Dan Dailey. Admission was 12 cents for children and 40 cents for adults, tax included. The formal opening of the rebuilt Gem Theatre was held on Sunday, March 28, 1948.

View of the stage and seating area of the newly restored Showplace of Kannapolis. 1948. 

The theater was also built with a beautifully decorated second floor with access to the balcony and restrooms. 1948.

A view from the stage of our 916-seat theater showing our fan favorite balcony seating.1948. 

The original concession stand at the Gem Theatre after it was rebuilt in 1948.


Francis Goes to the Races premieres at the Gem Theatre. Notice the elaborate signage under the marquee. 1951.

The "Duke" had a big hit at the Gem with the "Sands of Iwo Jima." 1954.


A sneak peek at the projectors at the Gem that brightened the silver screen for many years. 1957.

Another great crowd winding around the corner (what is now Restaurant 46). 1959.

It's always a good time when "The King" visits the Gem Theatre. 1959. 

The Gym Theatre, present. 


Until next week!


Email me at chris@704shop.com if you have interesting Charlotte facts you’d like to share or just to provide feedback!

Information taken from: 


“We have to do with the past only as we can make it useful to the present and the future.” – Frederick Douglass

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