Gem Theatre

Theatrical / Illinois

The Gem Theatre is an abandoned theatre on 8th Street in downtown Cairo, Illinois. The original facility was opened in 1910, rebuilt in 1930 and 1936, and closed in 1978.

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 erected within the shell of the original facility. 3

The new theatre, estimated to cost $100,000, was constructed by the Herbert estate and Rodgers & McFarling. 1 The Herbert estate owned the Gem Theatre, and Rodgers & McFarling were the leasers of the existing Gem Theater; they were also the owner of the Barth Theatre in Carbondale. The new Gem Theatre, complete with a marquee on its 8th Street entrance and a pipe organ inside, opened in 1930 at the cost of $200,000.

The Gem Theatre was again destroyed in a fire that began in the furnace room on February 27, 1934. 1 4 The owner, I.W. Rogers, was in Italy on a trip around the world at the time. It reopened in 1936.7

In early 1941, a fire caused damage once again, and the Gem Theatre opened on April 3. Later in the decade, the Gem was renamed the Lincoln Theater. 7

The Lincoln Theater closed in 1978. The front offices were later 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 The marquee was restored and the lobby stabilised. 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.