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Thanks in part to the dramatic interest in the film industry in Catawba County and, significantly so, to the development and growth of the Footcandle Film Society of Catawba County and its recently-completed 5th Annual Footcandle Film Festival (see this issue’s focus on Footcandle as an entrepreneurial firm), the newly-organized Gem Theatre & North Newton Revitalization Corporation is seizing a ripe opportunity to add to the business and economic possibilities of filmmaking and interests.

As it happens, a vacant building in North Newton, originally built in 1900 and operated as a theater until 1951, was available as a first venture. That long history certifies this current “ghost” as the oldest surviving theater building in the Catawba Valley. The development of this epic early theater into an active, retro-style theater blends well into the penchant of Catawba County entrepreneurs to “rediscover, remodel and reinvigorate” historic, yet physically-sound and well-located buildings into modernized functional businesses.

While long operated as the “North Newton Theater” and later the “Gem Theater”, this architecturally enticing building has remained empty for 70 years, patiently waiting to be re-discovered, re-invigorated and restored to a place of prominence in the area’s evolving film industry.

Coincidently, the Gem is located just across the street from an area already setting a high bar for innovative business development. Matt Bumgarner, the driving force behind this endeavor of the North Newton Revitalization Corp., cites the GEM theater project as a “perfect fit” to the already notable “Depot District” populated by the Southeastern Narrow Gauge and Shortline Railroad Museum and nearby historic Newton Depot. This area is already a proud “gem” for the county, and opportunities for growth seem to abound.

A full restoration of the “Gem” and adjacent properties (for a connected use yet to be determined) has taken on “legs” through The Gem Theater and North Newton Revitalization Corporation (a non-profit NC corporation) which will seek funding for the project in a capital funding drive in the near future.

While total purchase and restoration figures are unknown, $10,000.00 in Phase I funding is now needed.

So, if funded, what could this idea, already taking shape, eventually lead to?

Imagine a theater and venue used for live stage productions, silent and classic movie showings, foreign and independent films, as well as private parties or events. Whether you are one of the many film buffs in the broader Newton area, or a resident that simply enjoys an evening out in a uniquely historic and nostalgic environment, you will find this developing idea as a wise investment.

Need more information? Want to help? Go to www.newtongem.com (Key contact person: Matt Bumgarner).


Anthony K. (Tony) Jackson, MBA, Entrepreneur, Founder of GFB Connect, Inc.

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