If you ever wondered what going to the movies was like before the world got gummed up with wasteful, endless cracker-box theaters, the Gardena Cinema is a window on a simpler time — even if it is a window made of increasingly cracked glass. The Gardena is the last independent cinema operating in the South Bay area of Los Angeles — not counting the secret cinema at Alpine Village in Torrance — and its 800 seats face a single 37-foot screen. Opened in 1947 as the Park Theatre, the Gardena Cinema has entertained the South Bay, run by the same family for more almost 35 years and offering a distinctly family affair of family fare brought to you by the letter G. Yes, the single screen seems inconvenient with the googolplex of multiplexes available out there. But once upon a time, theaters were sweltering, creaky, majestic things that served merely as delivery devices for the magic of the film on the screen. The movie was the whole point — and it was the movie that riveted you rather than reminded you of the creature comforts waiting for you at home. Movies, no matter how advanced they become, are an escape — and the Gardena is, too, even if the seats in the escape pod are bright, bright orange. 14948 Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena. (310) 217-0404, gardenacinema.com —David Cotner

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