Reviving the historic Gem Theater in Dubach

Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 1:32 PM CST
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DUBACH, La. (KNOE) - Some who have lived in Dubach might remember the Gem Theater in downtown. Dubach native Eric Hanna recently purchased the location. Hanna is working to get started on the renovations as quickly as possible.

“The plan is to try to restore it as much as is practical to the way it was in the era that it was built, and we’re not 1,000% sure at this point when it was built,” said Hanna.

Hanna has ties to the theater, even though he did not grow up when it was open. His brother Billy was a projectionist, and his sister Patsy worked concessions there during the theater’s hay days.

There is still a question about when the theater was built, one record shows 1947, but an old Ruston newspaper has another.

“That ad was in 1937 and said the new Wahoo theater,” Hanna said.

Another local, Glen Neaville, was a projectionist when the theater was shut down. He has seen photos from Hanna of the old carbon arc projectors that are still upstairs with the splicing table. He said it looked as if history stood still when he left the room for the last time.

“You’d turn the power on, and then you touch them, “said Neaville. ”That would spark it originally. And gives out a light that you can’t believe I’m a super bright light. We had some of the top movies ever made, were in about that time.”

The theater even had an influence on businesses in downtown Dubach.

“It was happening on Saturday night. I mean, it would be packed, and all of a sudden, the and the town the merchants stayed opened late,” said Neaville.

The cleanup is going to take a bit of time.

“It’s going to be a lengthy process. We’re going to have to separate the trash from the treasure,” said Hanna. “And I’m so thankful for that because you saw the inside of this. We are going to need an army of volunteers to clean this up.”

Hanna said they are looking for information and interior photos of the theater to help with the process.