Gem Theatre

106 E. Vine Street,
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Gem Theatre, Knoxville, TN

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Part of the Bijou circuit, this was one of two Gem Theaters on Vine. The Gem was initially a concert hall where stars such as Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway performed. Due to damage sustained during a fire in 1939, the theatre was rebuilt and used strictly as a cinema until it closed in 1964.

Contributed by Jack Coursey

Recent comments (view all 8 comments)

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on August 31, 2006 at 1:33 pm

The Knoxville City Directory for 1913 lists the Gem theatre at 102 W. Vine showing motion pictures for the city’s African American citizens. This is, of course, in the sad days of segregation, when blacks and whites were not allowed to sit in the same auditorium. The building currently standing at 102 W Summit Hill (the new name for Vine Avenue) could possibly be the 1913 theatre. It is an anonymous, two-story commercial building which could have been built anytime between 1900 and 1930.

Will Dunklin
Will Dunklin on September 1, 2006 at 9:24 am

The address 102 W Vine is listed as “vacant” before 1913 when it begins listing the Gem Theatre. The actual opening date of the Gem is yet to be determined.

The address 106 W Vine is listed as Burton-Looney Manufacturing Co and Hardware throughout the 1910’s.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on September 1, 2006 at 9:44 am

The recent book ‘African American Theater Buildings’ -An Illustrated Historical Directory, 1900-1955 by Eric Ledell Smith (McFarland & Co 2003) lists;
Gem Theater, 102 E. Vine Avenue, Knoxville, TN a Vaudeville & picture house with 795 seats. Operated as a TOBA theatre, the manager in 1921 was M.C. Kennedy. References in Film Daily Yearbook’s 1931-1933 & 1940-1955, Motion picture Herald 24th April 1937, & 15th July 1939, Billboard August 6th 1921, Negro Yearbook 1921-1922 and others….

I have a copy of Film Daily Yearbook;1950 edition which lists the Gem Theater, 106 E. Vine Street with 795 seats. Earlier editions in 1941 & 1943 give a seating capacity of 800.

tntim
tntim on September 1, 2006 at 1:04 pm

The Gem theatre that I am aware of was on the southeast corner of Vine and Central which would be 102-106 E. Vine. The building was actually built over First Creek. The theatre as well as all of the buildings in the block was torn down in the mid sixties for the construction of the Business Loop which later became James White Parkway.

I do remember reading somewhere about an earlier Gem Theatre on West Vine, but I can’t remember where I read it.

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on December 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Robert Booker in a Column in the Dec.7 2010 Knoxville News-Sentinel writes,“{Cowboy stars}I saw a long time ago at the GEM THEATRE now come into my living room every Saturday morning with "RIDERS OF THE SILVER SCREEN”.He speaks of the old serials the old theatres use to run.

tntim
tntim on May 30, 2011 at 5:29 pm

I have moved the Street View to the old East Vine address which is now E. Summit Hill Drive.
The theatre was built over First Creek.

tntim
tntim on May 10, 2014 at 6:06 pm

In the Dec. 5, 1942 issue of “Showman’s Trade Review” there is mention a building permit had been obtained by Vine Properties Co. to rebuild the Gem Theatre which was heavily damaged by fire several months ago. Construction had already begun, and was expected to cost over $22,000.

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