Independent Gardena Cinema in South Bay offers old fashioned movie-going experience

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Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Small independent theater in South Bay keeps history alive
Gardena Cinema was the last single screen theater in the South Bay that shut down during the pandemic. It first opened in the mid-40s! They've just had a grand re-opening and are trying to keep the old-fashioned movie-going experience alive.

GARDENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Gardena Cinema was the last single-screen theater in the South Bay that shut down during the pandemic. It first opened in the mid-'40s! They've just had a grand reopening, and the theater needs your help to keep the doors open.

"In order to survive and to scrape by, we have basically converted our parking lot to an outdoor drive-in," said Judy Kim.

They painted a silver screen in their parking lot to make it a drive-in for 32 months. But just this week, they came back indoors with a bang. Their big headliner? "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

On reopening day, with a theater of 800 seats, they sold just 10 tickets. If it continues on like this, Kim says she'll have to tear down the building

"It's the theater that I went to as a kid," said Glenn Nance. "This was just where our mom used to take us."

"This is where I first saw the 'Pokémon' movie like two times. So it holds a small little place in my heart," said Sable Nance.

Kim's family has owned the theater since the '70s and kept afloat with family members working seven days a week for free. Her dad is 82 and still selling tickets in the box office. Her brother is overseas and her mom passed away this year after a six-year battle with cancer. Kim is getting by with a little help from her friends - a handful of volunteers like Matt Wilczynski.

"I can't think of anyone better who exemplifies what we think of as the American dream more than the Kim family and the Gardena Cinema and that's why I'm here," said Wilczynski. "Because I believe in that dream."

With $12 tickets and free parking, it's an affordable place with a whole lot to offer.

"This is something families would want. They just don't know about it," said Wilczynski. "This is a living breathing testament to our history."

Kim hopes moviegoers come and help keep this piece of history alive. "My father thinks I should kind of throw in the towel, but I kind of feel like I should give it my all!"