KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Stepping into Kannapolis’ Gem Theatre is like stepping into the past. Even the prices, $1.75 for a small popcorn, are what a moviegoer would pay decades ago.
Now, city leaders are moving forward with their next phase of theater renovations, aimed at improving the interior façade and the customer experience.
The city began refurbishing the 1930s single-screen cinema when they purchased it in 2015.
So far, they’ve renovated the historic marquee, added a first-floor restroom, and installed heating and air conditioning.
“I think it was one of the only things you could come do around here to get away from work and have fun,” said North Carolina Research Campus nursing student Ciera Shirley. “My grandpa worked in the mill, so he used to come here too with my grandparents and my family. I think it was just a fun place for them to come.”
As part of this upcoming phase, crews will install a new sound system, a new screen, and new curtains. But most importantly, they’ll install new seats, switching out the ones that have been in the theater since the 1960s.
They say their priority throughout the renovation will be to preserve the vintage charm.
“A lot of our historic buildings are gone, and a lot of cities still have those. This is one of those icons that needs to be preserved at all costs,” said City Manager Mike Legg.
As they prepare to begin the $1.2 million project in January, the city wants to give the community a chance to get involved.
They’re offering theater lovers the chance to purchase a brick under the marquee, some of the old seats, or to sponsor a new seat.
In the first two days of the sale, Legg says the city has already sold a quarter of the old seats and available bricks.
It’s a testament to the love the community has for their precious Gem.
“I grew up coming here. Our school would take field trips and come see movies here in middle school, high school, elementary school. I think it’s a staple for the community,” said Shirley.
Once the project starts in January, city leaders anticipate it will take about four months to complete.
To purchase a piece of Gem Theatre history, follow this link.
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