144 Commercial Road,
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The Gem Cinema, Newport, Wales opened in May 1913 as a silent movie house seating around 300 on one ground floor level.
Records show that sound was installed around 1931/1932. The cinema was on a narrow corner site on Commercial Road and Capel Cresent in an area of Newport known as Pill. In the 1930s the cinema was operated by a Mr. Gill, with Mrs. Gill the cashier taking the money from a small window who would then allow entry into the cinema through a curtain.
There was no luxury at the Gem; once inside it was said you couldn’t see a thing as it was always pitch black with bench seating bolted to the floor. Also, if you were to sit in the front row, you were in about 2 inches of water which constantly flowed from the toilets on each side of the screen.
The Gem did not survive many years after the war, and is listed as closing before the Cinemascope era in the early 1950s.
Local people called the Gem the “Bug House” as it was said you walked in and scratched all over on the way out, but although it must have been rough and dirty, it must have been a great adventure especially for many children on Saturday mornings during the Depression before and after the War.
The site of the cinema became a car showroom known as “Miss Black”, but although the corner site still exists, nothing is left to show any signs that a cinema was here. A convenience store now occupies the site.
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