The story of a forgotten America.

Gem Theatre

The Gem Theatre is an abandoned theater on 8th Street in downtown Cairo, Illinois.

The Gem Theatre opened in 1910 but was destroyed in a fire in 1929. 7 It was announced shortly after on February 18 that a new 1,400 seat venue would be constructed within the shell of the original facility. 3 The new facility, estimated to cost $100,000, opened in 1930 at the cost of $200,000. 1

A fire that began in the furnace room destroyed the Gem Theatre on February 27, 1934. 1 4 The facility reopened in 1936. 7 In early 1941, a fire caused damaged the theater once again which caused the facility to be closed until April 3.

Later in the decade, the Gem was renamed the Lincoln Theater which remained in operation until 1978. 7 Afterward, a portion of the building was reused as Gem Video, a video rental store.

The deteriorated building was donated to the city in 1995 with the goal of rehabilitating the structure for civic and school use, 7 and the marquee was restored and the lobby structurally stabilized. In late-August 2000, the state received $231,900 in funds from the federal Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration. 6 The state also issued $20,000 in Illinois FIRST funding for a new stage in June 2001; 5 the city contributed $70,256 towards the project.



  1. “Gem Theatre in Cairo Destroyed.” Sikeston Standard 2 Mar. 1934: 1. Print.
  2. “Personals.” Daily Independent [Murphysboro] 4 Apr. 1941: 5. Print.
  3. “New $100,000 Theatre to be Put Up in Cairo.” Daily Free Press [Carbondale] 18 Feb. 1929: 6. Print.
  4. “Fire Destroys Cairo Theater.” Jacksonville Daily Journal 28 Feb. 1934: 6. Print.
  5. “$534,499 in Illinois FIRST Projects for Southern Illinois.” Illinois Government News Network 8 Jun. 2001. Web.
  6. Rosenbery, Pete. “$231,900 in funds earmarked for Gem Theater.” Southern Illinoisan [Carbondale] 29 Aug. 2000: 3A. Print.
  7. Schiecke, Konrad. “Gem.” Historic Movie Theatres in Illinois, 1883-1960. Jefferson: McFarland, 2006. 58-59. Print.

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Cairo could have been a better place with gem its lot’s of places that are closed down in Cairo for weird reasons. They closed Wonder Market down which was the only grocery store in Cairo. Its lots of things closed that could have made Cairo AMAZING which is horrible cause Cairo could have been a better place. And lets not forget about KFC they also closed it down for the DUMMEST reason and the government EVEN CLOSED DOWN SCHOOLS! Who does that it takes away the education away from kids that need to learn for when they get older to be smart. Right now in 2022 there are only 3 schools open one is like a day care for kids called head-start its only for kids 3 and under the next one is Cairo Elementary. The last school is Cairo Junior High School. Lets make Cairo a better place and build new things and open better things and fix them up because Cairo can be better than this there are no Gas-Station’s in Cairo and you have to go to the outside of Cairo to be able to get gas which is horrible hopefully someone sees this and can be able to fix this the roads. The roads are horrible they need more houses and people leave trash and cars in there yard the park needs to be way better basketball hops swings are broken almost everyday and no one does nothing about it. Lets make Cairo better. how its so many stray dogs that need homes and all the trash in Cairo and they need WAY more baby food here in Cairo. Its so many Guns that people die from Its Crack heads that go up to people car and asked for money just to get a beer which helps nothing and is not good for your heath they need Nursing home for all the people who need help theirs so many homeless people and people in need because the government Takes away people homes we need doctors and very much more in Cairo we need more schools to be open and very much more thanks for reading this and this letter was written by 11-year old Erin Whitaker and 10-year old Brielle woods thanks for reading this and have a nice day.

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