Melissa Clary and partner posing in front of the Gem Theater.

Melissa Clary has always been drawn to the Wild West. For years, she made it a point to explore the historic settlements near her home in Las Vegas. 

Pioche has been on Melissa’s radar for a long time. She had visited many times over the years and had even joined in on community celebrations. She knew about the old Gem Theater long before she bought it and always admired the abandoned structure on main street each time she rode through town.

When Melissa heard that the Gem had finally gone up for sale, she seized the opportunity.

“I knew that the Gem Theater needed to be saved,” says Melissa. “I had the skillset to do it, and if not me, who was going to?”

Melissa knows movie theaters. She worked at one in college, and she had previously built a nonprofit advocating for the restoration of the Huntridge Theater in Las Vegas.

Gem Theater marquee at night

The Gem Theater—the only theater in the county—had not shown a film since 2002 after a storm blew its roof off. Back then, the prospect of making repairs, combined with a general drop in theater attendance, proved daunting for its previous owners. The building was shuttered for nearly 20 years.

Despite the global shutdown that began only months after purchasing the Gem, Melissa got to work. She began renovating and applied to get the theater registered as a historic building. 

Enthusiasm for the project has spread, and the restoration has ammassed an international fan club.

“There are film buffs interested in this, but we also get contacted by fans of everything from old projectors to vintage upholstery,” laughs Melissa.

Summer 2022 saw a milestone in the restoration: the marquee was lit once again. As Melissa puts it, the marquee is the first thing people see, and it’s what drew her to the building in the first place. It’s important that its neon glow lights up downtown Pioche again.

No hard date is set for the grand opening, but the plan is that the Gem Theater will screen on the weekends at the very least. Melissa would like to show both classics and new releases. She envisions plenty of themed events like Whiskey and a Western or cosplay evenings. 

Until then, Melissa and her group of dedicated volunteers will be hard at work getting the Gem Theater ready to entertain the public once again.  

You can support Melissa with a tax-deductible donation by vising