By Robert Koehler
(Click on thumbnails for larger pictures.)
The lobby of Downtown Independent, where the first New Media film festival played Friday through Sunday, June 11-13. The festival is one of the first to be located purely at Downtown Independent, 251 S. Main St., located on the west side of Main between 2nd and 3rd and the only independently run cinema in downtown Los Angeles.
As ImaginAsian, the venue struggled, but reconfigured as a home to a broad range of independent cinema wedged somewhere between a more commercial house like the Nuart and a microcinema like Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Downtown Independent has become a favored Los Angeles exhibition choice for alternative distribution entities such as Northwest Film Forum, which brought Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool to Downtown Independent in early March. Just finishing a week run on June 10, Oliveira’s sublime 2009 miniature feature, Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl continued the century-old director’s incredible current streak, which continues with his new Cannes premiere, the sublime The Strange Case of Angelica.
DI will also serve as a key venue during the Los Angeles Film Festival starting this Friday. Essential viewing there during LAFF includes: Jaak Kilmi’s amusing and clever Cold War auto-doc, Disco & Atomic War (Fri June 18, 7:30p); the Larry Fessenden-produced Bitter Feast (Fri June 18, 9:45p, Sun June 20, 10p); Mads Brugger’s acclaimed “invasion” of North Korea, The Red Chapel (Sat June 19, 7:30p); Aaron Katz’ SXSW hit, Cold Weather (Sat June 19, 10p); and Amir Bar-Lev’s emotionally powerful look at the tragic murder/death of Arizona Cardinals star Pat Tillman, The Tillman Story (Sun June 20, 1:30p).
Beyond a spacious and pretty cool lobby, the DI has a terrific mid-sized auditorium, with a very good sound system (audibly on display during the Saturday projection of Double Take), ample stadium-style seating as well as standard rake seating near the good-sized screen. An upstairs balcony entrance leads to a back row that affords a great deal of privacy. Upcoming photos include the theater’s rooftop area, ideal for hanging before and after screenings, as well as views of various nooks and crannies in this distinctive downtown cinema space.
As promised, a view to the upstairs levels of Downtown Independent. These levels include an entry to the balcony, an office-meeting space, and access to the rooftop. Note that the predominant architectural style is Mid-Century Modern, the mode born and bred in Southern California and all too suitable for a Los Angeles cinema.
Another view from the stairs of the DI, looking at both the lobby below and the meeting room above, ideal for (among other things) festival needs.
A view from the top of the stairs in the DI to the lobby area and the large Main Street lobby window. There’s a cafe atmosphere in the lobby when there’s a crowd, while street parking, especially on the weekends, isn’t too difficult. Besides, there are several lots nearby.
A view from the rooftop party area of the DI. Here, we’re looking north up Main toward 1st and 2nd, where you can catch dramatic vistas of old downtown (St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, the original home of the Los Angeles Catholic Archdiocese) and new…