Support Us Button Widget

The “Gem” is sparkling in Kannapolis

The historic Gem Theatre reopens to the public Thursday, May 16, after major renovations.

A brick building faces the front of the Gem Theatre's sign in front of a blue, cloudless day.

The Gem Theatre debuted in Kannapolis is among the only operating single-screen theatres in the country.

Photo via WCNC

Roll out the red carpet. After months of extensive renovations, the Gem Theatre is open to the public.

“We are pleased to reopen the Gem Theatre for everyone to enjoy,” says Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “As one of the most iconic movie theatres in the United States, we hope everyone enjoys the new amenities, such as the seats, while surrounded by the glamorous Art Deco design of our 1930s theatre.”

A wall of black and white photos with colored borders, noting the theatre's history.

Inside the theatre, guests will be able to transport through time, taking in the theatre’s rich history.

Photo via City of Kannapolis

Renovations on the 88-year old gem began in December 2023. The theatre now boasts new seats, a refinished stage and floors, a new screen, curtains, plus updated restrooms and concessions. Editor’s note: Historical artifacts are found throughout the space, paying homage to the historic landmark.

The single-screen theatre debuted in Kannapolis on New Year’s Eve in 1936. Six years later, the building was gutted by a fire. It was rebuilt in 1942 with a new lobby, 916 seats, and remains among the oldest single-screen movie theatres in operation today. It’s also one of a few to offer balcony seats.

Rows of red cushioned seats on the balcony level inside the newly remodeled theatre.

New seats were among the months-long renovation project for the Gem.

Photo via City of Kannapolis

“These renovations will allow the Gem Theatre to continue serving the community of Kannapolis by providing a comfortable and high-quality atmosphere to enjoy first-run movies, while preserving the memory of this historic landmark,” said Gary Mills, Director of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation.

More than 700 people contributed to the restoration project by sponsoring seats, a marquee brick, or buying a vintage seat.

“We want to thank the hundreds of people who donated to the Gem Renovation Project without their assistance we could not have completed these renovations,” says Mayor Hinnant.

The opening night film will be IF, starring Ryan Reynolds. Tickets are $4-$5. Showtimes are Thursday through Sunday.