31 S. Main Street,
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Winter Garden Heritage Foundation (Official)
Styles: Art Deco
Adapted to a former department store building in Winter Garden, Florida, the Gem Theatre was opened on September 27, 1941, as a movie house. At this date, Winter Garden had a U. S. Army searchlight batallion, and this theatre was added to downtown Winter Garden (in addition to the 1935 Winter Garden Theatre) to accommodate the movie going crowds.
The Gem Theatre was Art Deco to the hilt with an indoor box office located in a sweeping colorful partition that also kept outside light from hitting the screen. Concession products were brought in on demand from the other downtown theatre. The Gem Theatre gave up the ghost in 1949. Today, the marque, built of concrete, still stands. The projection booth is still intact, but the auditorium section of the building has had many uses since the theatre closed.
In 2002, Jim Henson Productions used the Gem’s facade in its production of “Kermit’s Swamp Years”.
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Recent comments (view all 11 comments)
The Gem has been divided into two separate rental properties, Patsy. One one side is West Orange Photo and Digital Services. The other half is a private residence. The former theatre is easy to spot since the art deco marquee still is installed, and probably will be there forever since it’s built of concrete.
From 1954 to 1956, the Gem Theatre became the Gem Super Market, an independently operated enterprise.
Why is it that when you click on the official website the Garden Theatre comes up and nothing with the word….Gem?
The Gem Theatre was a separate theatre, Patsy, and has been closed since 1949. I can’t think of a reason that it would be mentioned on the Garden Theatre’s website. If you would like it, I’ve written a history of Winter Garden’s theatres,“Flickers, Fires and Flames,” and it’s published for free distribution by the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation. If you will send me your address, I’ll be glad to mail you a copy. You can write me at .com Aren’t you scheduled for a visit to Florida this winter?
Irv: Yes, I am scheduled for a visit to FL this winter! I will be in Ocala late March to hopefully see and tour the art deco Marion Theatre. Do you have any current status information for that theatre? I was told by a friend who was in downtown Ocala last winter that the theatre was “boarded up” which has caused me to inquire about this theatre and my theatre visit to Ocala. I will send you a personal email with my mailing address as I would love to receive a copy of “Flickers, Fires and Flames”. Thank you so much!
Click here for a 2001 photo of the Gem Theatre.
Per the 1944 edition of the FILM DAILY YEARBOOK, the Gem had 250 seats. Please correct. Thank you.
Here is my picture from June 2011.
Was in Winter Garden last weekend and paid a visit to the former Gem. Nothing in the interior suggested that this building was ever a theatre. What remains of the original facade seems oddly out of place with the remainder of the building.
I agree, Jack. However, the marquee is the only prominent part of the old theatre that still exists, and I would like for it to stay. Besides, as Winter Garden continues to grow, it will need another downtown live theatre, and I’m hoping the Gem will be used. By the way, the projection booth is still there. It is currently being used for storage by the store located in the north half of the building.