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Celebrating Golden Days at the Golden Gem in 1941 – Golden History Museum Collection – Click to enlarge - Click to enlarge

Downtown Golden had a movie theater for more than 60 years. The Golden Gem opened in October of 1908 in a former church, located across 10th Street from Parfet Park (map). Films were silent at that time, and in 1910, the Gem employed a five-piece orchestra to accompany the films.

In 1911, they moved to a bigger and better facility in the Bella Vista Hotel (12th and Jackson). The owner installed “The finest electric sign ever placed in Golden.” (Colorado Transcript, 6/1/1911)

The first two homes of the Golden Gem: the old Christian Church at 10th & Jackson and the old Bella Vista Hotel at 12th & Jackson

In 1911, a new, modern building was constructed at 13th and Washington. The Golden Athletic Club rented the second floor and the Golden Gem Theater rented the first floor. The Theater moved in June 1912 and stayed there for the rest of its existence.

Golden Gem on the right, circa 1930s – Denver Public Library Western History Collection – Click to enlarge

Early films came on large reels, each reel weighing about 5 pounds and running for about 11 minutes. Advertisements would describe a film as a 2-reel film. An evening’s program would commonly include several films. The films weren’t necessarily stories–they often showed real events, such as a rodeo. In one case, they showed movies of a hunting trip taken by Theodore Roosevelt. The Gem showed their first “talkie” (movie with sound) in 1929.

Colorado Transcript, Number 19, March 15, 1928

The theater ran many promotions over the years. In 1928, they partnered with the Fromhart Motor Company and the Transcript to give away a car to “the most popular young lady in Jefferson County.” During the Depression, they would give away silverware on Tuesday nights, and at times they held drawings for a box of groceries.

The Golden Theater, circa 1950, with the neon marquee – Denver Public Library Western History Collection - enlarge

The Gem was “refreshed” several times, to update the look (and often the seats). One major remodel took place in 1949. The newly-updated theater, with a brilliant new neon marquee, had its grand opening the same night the Golden Welcome Arch was illuminated for the first time (it used to have neon letters). Ah that time, the owner changed the named from the Golden Gem to the Golden Theater.

The Golden Theater in the 1950s – Click to enlarge

The movie theater was always a centerpiece of our visitor attraction efforts. Golden was “the” downtown for many people living west of Denver and in the mountains, so people would come to Golden for a night out–dinner and a movie.

Golden Transcript, Volume 108, Number 199, October 2, 1975

The Golden movie theater, along with Golden’s downtown business district, slowly eroded throughout the 1960s and 70s. It went through several owners. One even showed x-rated movies. The Transcript mentioned that some young people referred to the place as “the Golden Germ”. Finally, the Foss family (of Foss Drug Store fame) bought the building and divided it into several retail spaces.

Steve's Corner Western Wear Store occupied that building for about 25 years, followed by several restaurants on the first floor and offices above.

Thanks to the Golden History Museum for providing the online cache of historic Transcripts, and to the Golden Transcript for documenting our history since 1866!