Dear Laemmle Fans,
You may be surprised to learn that I don’t watch every movie we play. There are simply too many films and not enough time to watch them all, so I often approve bookings based solely on the trailer, the critical reviews, or the reputation of the filmmaker or distributor. I mention this because I just recently had time to finish The Donut King, a bio-doc which explores the rags-to-riches story of LA’s own Ted Ngoy. As a multi-generational small business owner who has driven by the DK Donuts on Santa Monica Boulevard countless times, it was fascinating to learn the history of the company, and witness how each successive generation has adjusted to keep the business relevant and fresh (pun intended). The film’s examination of Ted’s personal backstory is both thoroughly entertaining and deeply informative.
So why does The Donut King deserve this blog post? In particular, I was struck by the film’s recount of the USA’s response to the Cambodian refugee crisis, following the rise of the Khmer Rouge. In a bipartisan fashion, our government acknowledged our responsibility towards those whose lives had been destabilized by prior actions in the region, and we admitted a large number of refugees. Military and civilian resources were mobilized to address the humanitarian concerns. Houses of worship and generous individuals provided sanctuary, and assisted with integration efforts. And as with prior waves of immigration, the vast majority of these new American citizens, through hard work and ingenuity, have contributed to the financial and socio-cultural betterment of our country.
Although Laemmle Theatres has been a local fixture for nearly a century, you may again be surprised to learn that I’m the first owner to be born in this country. Our company founders, my grandfather Max and his brother Kurt, immigrated after fleeing religious persecution in Germany (they followed Carl Laemmle, who had immigrated in 1884 and pioneered the early film industry by founding Universal Studios). My father, born in France, was only a small child when he arrived. Their history, and by extension the history of Laemmle Theatres, is not unique – Hollywood is filled with such immigrant stories, and when you look closely enough, so is the whole country.
Our new president has established comprehensive immigration reform as a major priority within his agenda. I am not endorsing the specifics of any particular bill, and I’m sure valid arguments will be made on both sides of the aisle. But for anyone who questions the inherent value of immigration, and wonders whether we should continue to expend all efforts to welcome new people to our shores, I encourage you to watch The Donut King, and to consider the film’s sentiment with an open mind. Whether it’s a distinctively opulent gourmet donut, or a “warp speed” vaccine, America has always gained more from the contributions of immigrants than it has lost by allowing them to settle.
All the best,