Penn Theatre

92 NW Market Street,
Reidsville, NC 27320

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The Gem Theatre was already operating in 1927. By 1929 the name was changed to the New Gem Theatre. In the 1930’s, the theatre was renamed the Penn Theatre. This theatre was patronized by African-Americans. The Penn Theatre is listed in the 1940 Film Daily Yearbook as closed with 250 seats.

Contributed by Ridgewood Ken

Recent comments (view all 2 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 20, 2013 at 10:20 am

I suspect that the Gem/Penn Theatre might have been the house that later became the Booker T Theatre. Sometime between 1941 and 1948 Reidsville renumbered its lots, and every lot’s address was increased by approximately 100.

The Penn Theatre is listed at 92 N West Market in the 1941 directory, but the 1948-49 directory has the Booker T Theatre listed at 182 N West Market. A renaming seems more likely than the construction of an entirely new theater, especially during a period when theater construction was severely limited by the dictates of the War Production Board.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 21, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I don’t recall ever having seen a city directory that listed vacant lots, and I’ve seen a lot of city directories. “Vacant” always meant an unoccupied building, and the street numbers of vacant lots are simply left off the list.

If we had access to more 1930s Reidsville directories than just 1932 and 1935, we might find either the New Gem or the Penn Theatre listed in several of them. I would guess that the name change came when the theater reopened, which could have been as early as 1935, if the reopening took place after that year’s directory went to press. The New Gem must have closed before late 1931, which is when information would have been gathered for the 1932 edition.

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