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Philip’s Gem Theatre raising money for new projector

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 2:28 PM CDT
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PHILIP, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The Gem Theatre in Philip has brought tinsel town to west-central South Dakota for decades.

However, the theater has gone dark after its lone projector was completely damaged in a power outage.

“We had a power surge that went through and damaged the light drive,” explained Amy Moses, General Manager. “Before when you would fire it up, it would show exactly what you wanted it to show. It would show the whole screen lit up and our ads, or the movies. Now, when you fire it up, it is just green and has black lines through it.”

The Moses family has owned and operated the theater since 2008. Between mother, daughter, and grandparents, the four of them manage the theater Friday through Monday, on top of their full-time jobs and lives.

The building that houses the theater has been standing since 1907. The theater was one of the first in South Dakota to show “talkie” movies, however, it is unknown exactly what year it became a movie theater.

The new projector will cost roughly $43,000. The family says that when they first learned that insurance would not cover any of the costs associated with buying a new projector, they gave thought to close the theater permanently. However, the push from the community was too much for them to let go.

“My family took over when I was just starting kindergarten, and I just graduated,” says Kiarra Moses, daughter of Amy. “I have been here all through school. All of my classmates, we have birthday parties here, I even had a runway walk here one time.”

Now, the Moses family is attempting to raise the money needed to replace the projector. They have applied for a number of grants, are hosting fundraisers, selling merchandise, and have created a Gofundme page.

The community of Philip, about 900 strong, is rallying behind them.

“We’ve had a lot of individuals that they don’t want to see it go, a lot have donated money,” explained Amy. “We have others that plan on donating, we’ve had a lot of people purchase shirts. We’ve had people tell us ‘well, this is where I had my first kiss, we can’t see it go.’”

“You feel at home here, it is not like you’re in a big area with a bunch of people you don’t know,” said Kiarra. “Even those that come from Kadoka or Wall, they all know us, we are all friendly faces.”

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