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The building housing the Gem Theater was a converted church building dating to the 1860’s. When the Universalist Church left the facility in 1897, it became a live theater / performance space before finding its way to motion pictures beginning in the silent era. The local paper and trade press suggest that it was the Colonial Theatre into 1926 before becoming the Gem Theatre.
The Gem Theater suffered a minor fire and was refreshed with sound films. Operator Edward Desjardins took over the operation installing air conditioning in 1938 and giving the interior an update with some Streamline Moderne style flourishes.
Unfortunately, on October 6, 1938, a projection booth explosion took place. Though everyone got out safely, the damage was too great to salvage the theatre. News of the loss also reached authorities who additionally fined Desjardins and his projectionist for failure to have an operator’s license for operating the Gem Theater in the first place.
Desjardins didn’t give up on film exhibition building an economical Streamline Moderne style New Gem Theatre on Main Street that opened February 1, 1939. Within a week of opening, authorities again visited fining Desjardins for operating a movie theatre on the Sabbath. Gem Theatre “#2” has its own Cinema Treasure page and, spoiler alert, it also burned down just prior to its fifth anniversary.
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