Originally named the Star Theater, the Gem was built in 1912 by the Shriner and Powellson Amusement Co. as a silent move palace serving Kansas City’s African-American population.
Renamed the Gem in 1913, the theater did not have a concession area and primarily featured second-run westerns and action adventures – no live theater, vaudeville or jazz bands, just the “Pick of the Pictures, Properly Presented.” By the time motion pictures could talk in 1929, it had become an established fixture on 18th Street. Admission was priced at 10 cents.
In 1923 it went under a major renovation, taking it from a simple one-story building with a stucco front to a two-story landmark with a baroque-style, white terracotta front and a balcony. Its ornate façade caused the Gem to be touted as a “work of art and triumph of engineering” by the Kansas City Call on Jan. 11, 1924. Further renovations included the “V” type marquee erected in January 1942, a new ticket booth in 1945 and an enlargement of the balcony in March 1947.
The Gem Theater was the crown jewel of the 18th & Vine corridor, featuring everything from films and live theatre productions to dynamic live jazz performances. When Mayor Richard Berkley and then City Councilman Emanuel Cleaver spearheaded the revitalization of 18th & Vine in the 1980s, the Gem Theater became a centerpiece of the district’s renovation efforts and was purchased by the City of Kansas City in 1990.
As a result of the vision and perseverance of Kansas City’s civic leaders, the Gem was restored into a beautiful, state-of the art 500 seat performance venue. The only one of its kind, the newly reconstructed Gem Theater now serves as host to the American Jazz Museum’s annual national jazz concert series, “Jammin’ at the Gem,” as well as community events, privately booked shows and theatre and dance productions.
|2016-12-09 19:00:00 (Ended)||Tim Warfield's All Stars "jazz Christmas"||Find Tickets|
|2016-12-19 23:00:00 (Ended)||AJM Monthly Board Meeting||Find Tickets|
|2016-12-26 17:00:00 (Ended)||35th Annual Kansas City City-Wide Kwanzaa Celebration||Find Tickets|
|2017-01-06 18:30:00 (Ended)||Steppin' on the Vine||Find Tickets|
|2017-01-14 19:00:00 (Ended)||Ramsey Lewis||Find Tickets|