The City of Kannapolis is pleased to announce the Gem Theatre has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and the City will invest $1.5 million in order to improve this important community treasure. The Gem Theatre property was part of the City’s purchase of downtown property in 2015.
City staff members have worked diligently to complete the one-year process which involved authenticating the age of the building and its unique architectural elements. The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is part of a program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources. There are currently 95,000 properties which have been identified as historic and worthy of preservation in the U.S. Being listed on the National Register is the first step in obtaining historic tax credits which may help fund future improvements to the theatre.
While the City worked to garner the historic register designation the city staff surveyed residents and completed assessments on the Gem Theatre structure. Over 4,000 people responded to the survey and asked for improved bathrooms and seating.
The building assessment brought to light the fact that a new roof and new HVAC systems were needed. The City invested in a new roof in the spring of this year. The new HVAC systems and handicap bathrooms will be added this winter.
Additional improvements to the theatre lobby and seating areas will be in future improvement phases when funding is available.
“We appreciate the Gem Theatre and the significance it has played in the lives of our residents for decades. It holds a special place in our hearts. We are pleased that the theatre has now been recognized as a national treasure,” commented Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “It is one of our valuable anchors that will aid us as we work to revitalize our downtown by bringing investors and people to our City.”
“We are extremely pleased that the National Register has acknowledged that the Gem Theatre is worthy of preservation. After serving the community for 83 years the Gem Theatre holds many happy and important memories for our customers. We look forward to continuing to serve the entertainment needs of our community for many years to come,” said Steve Morris, Vice-President and General Manager of the Gem Theatre.
The Gem Theatre originally opened on December 31, 1936. A few years later, in 1942, The Gem Theatre was gutted by fire and the theatre was reduced to ashes.
The theatre was rebuilt in 1948 and features a beautiful lobby and 900 seats. The Gem is one of the oldest single-screen movie theatre in continuous operation today. It is also one of only a few movie theatres that offers balcony seating. Over the years, in addition to movies, the theatre has been home to live performance by Roy Rogers and Trigger; the Horace Heidt Show, Tex Ritter, Lash LaRue, Fred Kirby, Jimmy Dickens and the Grand Ole Opry. In recent years, it has thrived as a first run Disney movie theatre and home of the N.C. Music Hall of Hall Ceremonies with performers such as the Avett Brothers taking the stage. Movie and concession prices are below market and are reminiscent of the hey day of cinema.