Downtown Independent

251 S. Main Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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David_Schneider on March 28, 2016 at 4:48 pm

During part of what I called my “Great Western Trip ‘08”, I found a promotional postcard in the Little Tokyo Visitor’s Center for the premier of an independent film called “Asian Stories”. Being a person attracted to Asian things I attended the event, held on July 25th, 2008, which turned out to be a couple blocks away at the ImaginAsian Center, a movie theater that played only Asian/Asian-American films!

The exterior of the theater was sort of futuristic and neat. As I arrived I found out that James Kyson, an actor in the film who also played the part of “Ando” in “Heroes”, one of my favorite tv shows at the time, would be there for a q&a session.

After the film and q&a, the audience was invited to an after-party at a nightspot some blocks away. (I can’t remember the name or find it where I think it was on Google Street View, even if I look at images from 2008, but I remember a small bar in the front, then an enclosed patio-like area in the back where the party was held.)

At the party I chatted with some of the film’s crew who seemed pleasantly surprised that a guy visiting LA on a trip would have chosen to attend their event. The director introduced me to one of the producers as proof to her that using promotional postcards to attract viewers really does work, (since she seemed to have had doubts, though we wondered if I was the only one they had worked on). I was able to get a photo with James Kyson and tell him I was looking forward to the next season of “Heroes”.

I had a longer conversation with one of the other actors (probably Kirt Kishita). I said he didn’t seem like the tough guy he played in the film and asked him how he was able to get into character. He said he is usually more sensitive in real life and described some of his techniques. We agreed that acting is something that needs to come from the heart, and after we expounding upon this theme for a few minutes, he concluded by saying “We are like brothers”.

Before I left I stopped at the bar in the front, where I talked with a girl who had been in the audience about the movie and my trip. As she reached her drinking limit and her husband came to collect her, she introduced me to him in appreciative tones with some embellishment and flair : “This is Daaaave…. from Miami, Florrrrrida….. and he’s traveling the worrrrrld…. and he’s having the time of his life!”

All this is a pleasant memory.

When I next visited Los Angeles and walked by the theater in August of 2011, I was disappointed to see it was no longer the ImaginAsian (and therefore probably not showcasing Asian films), but at least it was still operating as the Downtown Independent and still had the cool unique exterior.

I had read online there had been another ImaginAsian in New York City, which I now see is part of the history of the closed Big Cinemas Manhattan that has a page here on Cinema Treasures.

The Wikipedia page for the ImaginAsian company says:

“They also operated The ImaginAsian, a renovated movie theatre located in Midtown Manhattan that shows only first-run and classic East Asian films, as well as several film festivals per year. The company renovated a second former movie theatre in Los Angeles that opened in December 2007, the former Linda Lea Theater, which originally showed Japanese films and served the Little Tokyo area before shuttering in the 1980s.”

The Linda Lea has its own Cinema Treasures page, and to me the contrast from the ImaginAsian/Downtown Independent is striking.

dtrigubetz on June 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

A good crowd attended the May 30 premier of an independent pic filmed in Chicago and two shorts. Admission is $10, but if you ask for the “Local” rate you only pay $5. Rates are not posted. Beer and wine are available to take into the theater and the Los Angeles Film Festival will have a number of screenings here.

kencmcintyre on July 17, 2009 at 1:44 pm

There is an Iranian film playing there today, per the LA Times. Still going.

kencmcintyre on May 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

All of the signage has been removed, along with the coming attractions posters. It looked empty.

kencmcintyre on April 6, 2009 at 8:59 pm

They are showing “Baby on Board”, which is first run, although it’s such a bad movie maybe they didn’t mind booking it here. I took a couple of photos today.

kencmcintyre on March 18, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I haven’t seen this theater since it was sold. I think the signage is the same as the Imaginasian, though. I will take a look next Monday when I am downtown.

DonSolosan on January 5, 2009 at 4:30 pm

This is no longer the ImaginAsian Center, but the “Downtown Independent.” Some sparse info at:

kencmcintyre on October 20, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I never saw people lining up to get in. Perhaps it was a good idea that didn’t pan out.

kencmcintyre on February 4, 2008 at 6:26 pm

I took this photo in January 2007. Interesting “then and now” comparison with the new theater:

kencmcintyre on February 4, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I’ll bet the tenants of the Higgins loft building at 2nd and Main are thrilled with that prospect.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 4, 2008 at 6:09 pm

What’s going up across the street from the new ImagineAsian Center is the Los Angeles Police Department’s motor pool building. It will essentially be just a big garage, but the LAPD grudgingly consented to allowing some retail space on the ground floor along Main Street. The project will contribute few actual users to the street, but plenty of motor traffic. It’s just the latest blob to ooze from the civic center into what used to be downtown, and will probably prove to be one of the more destructive.

kencmcintyre on February 4, 2008 at 5:32 pm

I was around there today. A very nice Japanese gentleman, maybe eighty years old, was heading into the theater. We talked about the old Linda Lea, but he wasn’t familiar with it. Incidentally, the Higgins building across the street was being demolished. It will be gone by the end of the week. The entire east side of Main between 2nd and 3rd, except for the two buildings on either corner, is fenced off. Something large may be going up there.

Here are a couple of photos I took today:

reluctantpopstar on December 13, 2007 at 9:06 am

I went to two showings during the “free” week, Dec. 2-6.

The theater was about 2/3 full, though I was one of the few non-Asians in attendance. (The films had English subtitles.) The audience was about 85% Asian. Yes, they do have the usual popcorn and candy for sale. No, they are not selling sushi or bento boxes, though I would enjoy that.

A nice, spanking new, modern, sleek little one-screener. The neighborhood is still a little scary, but much improved over past decades. If you live in L.A., check it out sometime.

br91975 on December 11, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Any word on how this theatre is doing in the early running?