14948 Crenshaw Blvd. Gardena, CA 90249 | map |
The news: The theatre continues to operate as a first-run single screen venue. The Kim family that has run it since 1976 is trying to sell it. Judy Kim is keeping the theatre open with the help of volunteers until she finds a buyer.
Phone: 310-217-0505 Website: www.GardenaCinema.com | on Facebook
At some point is was called the Morning Calm Theatre. In the early 60s as the Park Theatre it was run by Harry Milstein's Grand Theatres as a second run house like their Grand and Stadium theatres in Torrance. Pacific Theatres was later involved. Sometimes it ran Spanish language films as well as occasional Korean and Japanese films.
The theatre was purchased by the Kim family in 1976 and then operated by John Kim and his wife with assistance from their son and daughter. In the late 70s and into the mid-90s it was the Teatro Variedades with Mexican films and the occasional live variety show.
In 1995 the Kims turned it into the Gardena Cinema, running as an independent single screen house with first run films. John's daughter Judy took over management duties in 1996.
It closed in early 2020 as a result of pandemic restrictions. They did several drive-in events in late 2021 but nothing indoors.
Status: The family reopened the theatre in October 2022. The website for ABC7 discussed the difficulties in maintaining the business in their November 15 story "Independent Gardena Cinema in South Bay offers old Fashioned movie-going experience."
The theatre is currently operating but in January 2023 the family started looking for a buyer.
In 2023 the theatre received a $5,000 grant from the L.A. Conservancy as one of five businesses selected for awards in round one of their Legacy Business Grant program. See their February blog post "Time, Taste and Tradition: Preserving L.A.'s Legacy Businesses." The program is supported by a donation from Wells Fargo Bank.
Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images website for this January 1983 view of the theatre as the Teatro Variedades.
A 2011 view. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for his photo, a post on the private Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles.
Eddie Murphy, playing Rudy Ray Moore, checks out the theatre in Craig
Brewer's "Dolemite Is My Name" (Netflix, 2019). He's made a film called
"Dolemite" but can't get a distributor. While doing PR for a club date
in Indianapolis a DJ in town (Chris Rock) says he knows the owner of a
The Gardena on TV:
More information: For a lovely tour of the theatre see Sandi Hemmerlein's 2023 Avoiding Regret photo essay "The End of the Line for the Last of its Kind, Gardena Cinema." Thanks, Sandi!
Check out the Cinema Treasures page on the Gardena Cinema. They also have a page for a Gardena Theatre on W. Gardena Blvd. that closed in the 50s.
The Cinema Tour page has several 2003 exterior views. There's a nice minute and a half video tour (even going to the booth) on YouTube, dating from 2012 when the venue was for sale.
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