Gem Theatre

318 N. Broadway Avenue,
Oklahoma City, OK 73102

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The Elk’s Lodge membership outgrew its location on Broadway & 2nd Street in 1907, and the embellished auditorium on the second floor of the building was opened as the Odeon Theatre, presenting photoplays. A March 28, 1907 newspaper advertisement promoted the Odeon screening an obvious ‘exploitation’ picture “The Evelyn Nesbit Thaw Movie”. It was still named Odeon Theatre in December 1908, but was soon renamed Theatorium. By 1937 it had been renamed Gem Theatre.

Today the structure still stands, now known as the Wright Building, with a modern facade that sheaths the original ediface.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

raybradley
raybradley on November 19, 2006 at 11:01 pm

The Gem Theatre started life as a B-feature house, but from about 1943 till it closed in the early 1950’s the Gem was an adult cinema that presented T&A and stag erotica. Several large downtown hotels were close to the Gem, which helped improve ticket sales. Also, the Gem was popular amoungst Airmen from nearby Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, and Sailors from the U.S. Naval Base located in Norman.
Since street car lines offered twenty-four hour service to surrounding small towns the Gem, Gaiety, Joy, and Reno theatres were able to include midnight showings.

missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on March 22, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Oklahoma City based Lowenstien Theatres owned the following cinemas,
Okla. City – Blue Moon, Colonial (AKA-Majestic), Gem, Olympic (AKA- Mondo, Academy), and Paris.
Tulsa – Downtown, Midtown, and Uptown.
Wichita, KS – Colonial and Yale.

seymourcox
seymourcox on March 31, 2007 at 1:13 pm

After studying old newspaper ads from the below site I suspect that the Gem originally opened in 1907 as the Theatorium. One ad dated October 1, 1907, list the Theatorium address as 212 Broadway, and while the Gem was at 217 Broadway, the entrance could have been moved somewhere along the line. Or, street numbers could have been shifted as the city grew. Then again, the Gem and Theatorium could have been two seperate theatres.
http://www.newsok.com/theoklahoman/archives

raybradley
raybradley on April 29, 2007 at 11:16 am

If you study historic 1930s, 1940s, & 1950s photos of downtown Oklahoma City you will find no theatre marquees to be seen along the 200 block of Broadway. Since Gem Theatre ads clearly list an address of 217 N. Broadwy, this leads to an obviouse assumption that the Gem Theatre must have been a walk up theatre located within the old Elk’s Lodge Building on the corner of Broadway at Second.
This lovely sandstone building was constructed at the turn of the last century. A drugstore occupied ground floor footage, while upper floors held an embellished auditorium and meeting halls. Within only a few short years membership outgrew the size of this building and the Elks moved to a much larger location farther North.
Although a modern facade sheaths the original ediface, this building still stands. From the Oklahoma County Tax Assessor web site are images of the original structure, and a modern day view as it looks today (main entrance to the Gem would have been on the far right corner, obscured by a delivery wagon on photo left),
View link

jchapman1
jchapman1 on April 30, 2007 at 4:34 pm

Further history of the building shown in the 04/29/07 photo link, built in 1902 as an India Temple. Renamed the Wright Bldg after the Masons vacated in 1910, this would have left a generous time period for that upstairs auditorium to be used for cinema use, if indeed it ever was used for that purpose.
A sharp color postcard view (plate #92) can be seen in the fun book “VANISHED SPENDOR, Postcard Views of Early Oklahoma City”, by Jim Edwards & Hal Ottaway. Be sure to check postcard #93 of that atmospheric cafeteria. It has to be an Eberson design!

seymourcox
seymourcox on July 22, 2007 at 1:16 pm

Ongoing research proves that the Gem Theatre was not located inside the Wright Bldg, though it is most likely that the Theatorium was here.
Through the courtesy of Oklahoma County Tax Assessor Office come these vintage picture postcards.
In this 1940s view the Gem marquee can faintly be seen (right of center) between the upright signs of WKY Radio and the hotel.
View link
This 1950s color postcard shows the same view from the opposite direction. Gem Theatre was already gone, but had been inside the four story corner building (photo right).
View link

missmelbatoast
missmelbatoast on April 4, 2011 at 8:17 pm

The Gem Theatre is quite a mystery. It and the former Theatorium must have been the same house. I’ve been told both cinemas used the Wright Bldg 4th floor auditorium but this has not been confirmed.
Picture with map
View link

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