Friday, December 17, 2010

Lost Film Theater in L.A.'s Chinatown

For years rumors have bounced around L.A.'s film scene about a long-shuttered movie theater in Chinatown with a forgotten trove of hundreds of Asian martial arts movies stashed away in it ... I was never quite sure if this was just wishful thinking on the part of hardcore movie buffs, until a few months ago when I got a chance to peek inside one of L.A.'s truly forgotten and forlorn movie houses.  

I can confirm that yes, the theater is there in the industrial heart of Chinatown -- and yes, it's amazingly and inexplicably filled with literally hundreds and hundreds of Hong Kong film prints, stacked haphazardly in the dusty lobby, running up the steps to the stage and overflowing both in front of and behind the screen ...

Apparently the theater was one of the last stops on a once-bustling Asian-language theater circuit across the U.S. ... I have fond memories of going to see John Woo movies at the now-demolished Sun Sing Theatre in New York's Chinatown in the mid 1980's.  The Sun Sing was located underneath the spans of the Manhattan Bridge (the place would literally rattle when subway trains went by overhead) ... People would eat their lunches inside the theater, and two giant luminous clocks flanked the screen on each side like the perpetual eyes overlooking the ash heaps in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby ... Now all gone.

I'm guessing that this theater in L.A.'s Chinatown was the last port of call on the Asian film circuit, and the prints just piled up there with nowhere else to go ... Apparently Quentin Tarantino had leased the theater out for a while and used it as a private screening room, lured by the tantalizing supply of H.K. film treasures just strewn about the place.

Huge thanks to my friend Paul Rayton, head projectionist at the Egyptian Theatre for supplying these photos of our secret visit to one of L.A.'s abandoned movie spots ...


  1. Hi. Amazing post! I'd love to hear more about this theater, and to save and preserve the films inside. Please email me:

  2. I'd been hearing these tales for ages too; nice to finally get a look inside the place.

    Surprised there hasn't been more activity here, especially since Downtown is a hotspot again and it looks ready to get back to business after some cosmetic cleaning.

  3. Too slow Dan. I already loaded up a van! I'm unspooling Drunken Taoism as we speak!

  4. i'm so jealous!! if i was in LA i would be charged for B&E for sure!

  5. What was the name of the theater, and do you have the address, or general area of where it is? Scanning my head for old memories.