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Student Newspaper of Derry Area High School

The Station

The Station

The Station

Reviving the Gem

Let’s Bring Back the Magic of Derry’s Theater
Reviving the Gem

Many of you may not be aware that our charming town of Derry once had its very own theater, a hidden gem called “The Gem Theater.” Nestled in downtown Derry, this historical treasure has a rich history that deserves to be resurrected and cherished by our community once more.

The story of The Gem Theatre dates back to its construction around October 1916, with its grand opening presumably in December of that year. It boasted not only a main floor for seating but also a balcony, offering an exceptional movie experience. The theater continued to entertain our town with films and even embraced technological advancements like sound and 3-D effects. However, in March 1970, it sadly ceased its operations and sat vacant for a year. In 1971, a local theater group attempted to revive it, but by 1972, The Gem Theatre had closed its doors for good, eventually transforming into a hardware store until 1983.

The theater had a brief revival in December 1998 when it became a venue for independent rock band concerts. However, this sparked concerns among local residents due to unruly behavior by adolescent patrons, resulting in the theater’s closure once again. Today, The Gem Theatre stands dormant, repurposed for residential use.

This summer, while my family and I were exploring Derry’s great garage sales, we stumbled upon The Gem Theater, owned by Joan Reynolds. Not only did we visit because of her sale, but we also hoped to catch a glimpse of what the theater might have looked like in its glory days. During our visit, I discovered a shared passion for revitalizing The Gem Theatre as Ms. Reynolds expressed her desire to bring it back to life. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and we exchanged contact information.

In our conversation, Ms. Reynolds revealed that she doesn’t quite know where to start or who can assist her in this ambitious endeavor. She even mentioned the possibility of gifting the theater to an entity that helps keep it alive after her passing, with the hope that young people, including our school community, would utilize it to its full potential.

As a 16-year-old student focused on college applications and schoolwork, I understand that I may not have all the answers, but I am determined to help connect Ms. Reynolds with individuals and organizations that can make this dream a reality. I believe that we have great programs and passionate enthusiasts in our area who would be excited to contribute their expertise in event planning, restoration, and more. There may also be grants and local support available to aid in this endeavor.

I am reaching out to our Derry Area School District, DARCEE, The Historical Society, EWCTC, and our own Foundation to explore potential partnerships. I also encourage interested groups such as Trojan Spear, our music department, and former alumni to consider how The Gem Theatre could benefit them. Our music program, in particular, could thrive in this unique space, and our Foundation might host winter events or concerts that our Amphitheater cannot accommodate during the winter months.

The revival of The Gem Theatre could be a remarkable opportunity for our students, parents, and senior community members alike. Let’s work together to make Derry a vibrant and thriving town once again, just as it was in the stories our grandparents shared with us.

I am serving as a liaison for this project, excited to witness a community member’s determination to make a positive difference. If you have any information, ideas, or suggestions to share, please contact either me or Joan Reynolds at 724-454-7482. Feel free to pass this message along to anyone you believe would be interested in joining our cause.

Let’s not let this incredible opportunity for Derry slip through our fingers. Together, we can breathe life back into The Gem Theatre and create a lasting legacy for generations to come.

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    Celia RajkovichJan 19, 2024 at 9:36 pm

    1st of all I need to say excellent writing young lady! Your writing is interesting and captivating and your idea is excellent. Please take Nathen up his invites; he is correct. Students used to attend DARCee meetings for school credit. All of this is such a great educational opportunity and needed networking.

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    Nathan Joseph BundyJan 17, 2024 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you so much for your interest. I am a Derry Borough Council member as well as member of the Derry Borough Planning Commission. We recognize the plight of the efforts of rehabilitating such a historic building. I would encourage our youth (it used to be a graduation requirement) to attend Council, Planning, and Zoning meetings, listed on the borough website, and learn more about the proccess. We would love to see young people invested in the town’s future attend. We would also need all three of these agencies to collaborate and provide the necessary variances to allow zoning for Theatre here. Work would need done (maybe donated) for a few UCC Code items in the building also. As far as collaboration with the school music and theatre programs, I am all for it. I’d love to see a usable space for the performing arts in town. Perhaps they know of folks who could donate time and materials to Ms. Reynolds (like those who construct the sets for the plays). In closing, our society in general loves to limit spaces for children, especially teens or young adults, to simply exist in the world. A venue for young bands could be one such option. People of all ages deserve spaces where they can congregate peacefully, and potentially loudly, as long as all noise ordinances are followed. -Nathan Bundy

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    Alice SimondsJan 17, 2024 at 1:26 pm

    Fantastic idea!!

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    Chase MarcoOct 16, 2023 at 8:25 am

    Very interesting article! I always wondered what kind of history that theater held, now I know the full story.