Linda Lea / Downtown Independent

251 S. Main St.   

Los Angeles, CA 90012

| map |

(217) 617-1033

Website: | on Facebook

News: Demolition of the Independent and the adjacent building at 245-247 S. Main may be happening in the near future. Bianca Barragan had a May 28, 2016 story in Curbed LA "Here's What We Know About the Demolition" that discusses the issue. The building north of the Independent once was the home of the Crystal Theatre. It currently houses the nightclub "The Smell" at 247 and the New Jalisco bar at 245.

Tenants of all the spaces from #247 south of to 3rd have been given a 30 day "heads-up" notice. The one-story retail conglomeration on the south end of the block will be no loss. It dates from 1905 but it's been messed with a lot including getting its upper stories chopped off at some point. If it's all demolished, it would leave the entire west side of the block cleared except for the Higgins building at 2nd & Main. The Higgins isn't affected by the demo project.

Except for the Higgins, everything on the west side of the 200 block is now owned (some evidently just acquired last year) by the L&R Group of Companies, operators of Joe's Auto Parks and other ventures.  They already operate two lots in between the clusters of buildings they're planning to demolish.  Other stories about the demo , largely focused on The Smell, not the theatre, are on Southern California Public Radio and LAist.

Opened: 1925 as the Arrow and kept the Arrow name until at least 1939. In the 40s it was the Aztec and the Azteca, sometimes running burlesque as well as films.  Apparently at one time it was also called the Civic before finally becoming the Linda Lea.

The Linda Lea had once been very popular exhibiting Japanese films but had been closed since the 80s. 

Seating: 500

Architect: John Kunst  

Reopened:  December 2007 as the ImaginAsian Theatre. The Linda Lea was nearly demolished earlier that year to make way for the new theatre. The two side walls are the only things remaining from the original structure. Blogdowntown ran a nice story on the ImaginAsian debut

The ImaginAsian was soon renamed the Downtown Independent, morphing into a hip venue for indie films, foreign cinema and documentaries.

Seating: 222

Downtown Independent Architects: Hodgetts & Fung  

Status:  See the news at the top of the column.  As of 2016 the Independent and the Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live are the only downtown Los Angeles theatres regularly running movies.  They'll be joined by the Alamo Drafthouse operation at the Bloc in 2017.

Linda Lea in the Movies: It can be glimpsed in the film "Black Belt Jones" (1974).

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Linda Lea.  Tovangar 2's Noirish LA post #30848 includes a copy of the October 1923 building permit, signed by the architect.

L.A. Curbed ran a story when the property was in play for the reconstruction program. American Classic Images has a 1983 photo.

And see our listing on the Main Street Theatres page for the other Linda Lea on 1st St., also known as the Fuji-Kan.

     California State Library

The State Library has this view looking north
on Main (from Third) with the Linda Lea
halfway down the block. The roof sign is
advertising Japanese films.  
full size view

     Gary Graver on You Tube    

"Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2"

The Linda Lea after closing in an c. 1980s view
by Mr. Graver. See his video for a great show of many
 photos he shot over a period of several decades in
Los Angeles and Portland, OR.
larger view

     L.A. Public Library Collection   

A c. 1920 view of the block looking south from the
Library's collection.  Here the Linda Lea roof sign
is advertising "All seats 10 cents."   
full size view

A detail of the theatre facade
from the photo above.

A c. 1937 view of the theatre when it was the
Arrow that's in the Los Angeles Public Library
collection. It's a photo by Herman Schultheis. 
full size view

     Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

Looking north on Main during January 2007.
Most of the Linda Lea is gone as we
look through it to the west.
full size view | on Photobucket

A later 2007 view during the demolition
and reconstruction of the Linda Lea

into the new ImaginAsian Center.
full size viewon Photobucket

More views from 2007:
| demolition - roof view |
| walls - from across the street |
| framing - from the south  |

     Skyscraper City    

An L.A. Times pic posted in an article
about the ImaginAsian Center on this blog about
the plans for the new theatre -- the first new movie
 theatre in downtown Los Angeles in 20 years.
 full size view | the article

     Supra 21v on Flickr

A February 2007 look at the original facade of the
Linda Lea during demolition after the "modernization"
 had been peeled off.  The facade was later demolished.
full size view | on FB/LAtheatres


     Pete Woodhead on Flickr

A sign detail by Pete Woodhead from 2005.
   on Flickr | on Photos of Los Angeles

     You Are Here  

A shot of the Linda Lea Theatre facade
in its last years from the dazzling website
by Martin of Stuttgart, Germany. 
 full size view

Another c. 2007 look at the facade.
full size view

Take a tour through the
Theatre+Movie Palace
 of this site for lots of other
terrific photos.

A look at the Downtown Independent.

photo: Bill Counter
- 2010

[ click on either of these to go to a larger view ]

An earlier view -- with the Linda Lea signage still up.

photo: Ken McIntyre - 2007

Thanks, Ken! His photo originally
appeared on Photos of Los Angeles.

about photos from other
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We've tried to give appropriate credit. Please
contact us if there are incorrect attributions, links that
no longer work or other issues. A link near each image will
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     Downtown Independent

A view of the auditorium from the theatre's website.
full size view | on the DI site

A nice shot looking out from the lobby toward the street.
See the DI website for more views of the theatre.
full size view | on the DI site

     Life Magazine

A c.1960 photo by Ralph Crane for Life with
the Linda Lea over on the right. It was shot in
front of the Union Rescue Mission when it
 was still on the 200 block of Main.

A detail from the Life photo.

Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Tourmaline
 for including this shot on Noirish post #35742. Many Life
photos are on the post, mostly about restaurants. At the
bottom, however are several Main St. photos, mostly of
crowds outside the Union Rescue Mission.

     Love and Hate L.A.

A 2008 blog post on the ImaginAsian Center
gives us this nice look at the boxoffice.
full size view

Looking north across the facade.
full size view

The doors at the time of the 2008 opening.
full size view

     Photos of Los Angeles

A c. 2007 shot on Ken McIntyre's
Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
full size view | on Photos of LA

Another c. 2007 look at the facade.
full size view | on Photos of LA

     USC Archives

A 1939 Dick Whittington Studio view, looking
 north from 3rd along the west side of the block.

On the side of the Linda Lea the signage says
 "Talking Pictures and Vaudeville." This view above
 also appears on Photos of Los Angeles.

Another view looking north on Main in 1939.
Note the interesting marquee strangely inserted into
 the original Arrow Theatre nickelodeon arch.
full size view

  Note the Higgins Building
down the block at 2nd St.

A detail of the facade from the USC photo above.
larger view

At this point we're advertising 2 Spanish language
features plus a stage show for 15 cents -- despite the
old price still being on the roof sign.