Gem Theatre

224 Eighth Street,
Cairo, IL 62914

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Gem Theatre ... Cairo Illinois

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Gem opened its doors in 1910, and seated 685.

A fire in 1934 completely gutted the theater, and it was rebuilt two years later in Art Deco style, including a new, elegant marquee.

The Gem continued to operate for nearly another half century, before it was closed in 1978.

The theater today sits vacant, having fallen into serious disrepair.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 19 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm

This is a nice close-up view of the Gem.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 8, 2010 at 4:17 am

An article in Boxoffice of January 16, 1967, gives a somewhat different history of the Gem than that currently presented here. According to Bill Griffin (the subject of the article, and former assistant manager of the old Gem and manager of its replacement) the original Gem did not burn down, but was demolished to make way for the new Gem. It was the new Gem which suffered the fire.

Although the Boxoffice item says that Griffin watched “…the beautiful new Gem Theatre burn to the ground,” the facade that survives today doesn’t look like anything that would have been put up in the 1930s. My guess would be that the fire only gutted the theater and it was rebuilt within the old walls. Griffin arrived in Cairo in December, 1926, so the original Gem was demolished after that. My guess, judging from the architectural style of the newer building, is that the ill-fated second Gem was built in the late 1920s.

bbrown1 on February 21, 2011 at 9:10 pm

At the link below is a photo of the Gem Theater. Judging from the movie showing on the marquee, FORTY GUNS starring Barry Sullivan and Barbara Stanwyck, I believe the photo is from 1957. In the background on the opposite side of the street, may be the marquee for the Lincoln Theater, though I cannot make it out for sure:

View link

(If link goes to “photos” page, the 1957 photo is in lower left hand corner, and you can click photo to enlarge it. There are also some more recent photos of the Gem on the page.)

dplomin1954 on May 7, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Wow. When you see all the cars and all the occupied storefronts back then compared to today you wonder how many people are left to revive this town?

kschneiderstl on November 27, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Note that in the 1986 photo there is a smaller sign under the marquee that says Gem Video. Must have operated as a video store for some time after closing as a theatre.

ballen270 on October 13, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I went in this building a few years ago with one of the city officials there with me. I was thinking of buying it because the lobby looked in such great shape and I thought maybe the rest was in that condition also. The auditorium is in bad shape I mean terrible. They might as well tear it down.

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