Theater owner and film distributor David Liem Bao Diep, a refugee from Vietnam who found success in America, died from kidney failure April 24 in Studio City, Calif. He was 70.
Diep was born in Haiphong, North Vietnam, but his family moved to Danang in the central part of the country in the 1950s. There he learned the jewelry trade and opened his own jewelry store, plus an antique store after that. Later living in Saigon in the southern part of the country, he fled the communist advances in 1975 with his second wife and seven children in tow.
After stays in Guam, Camp Pendleton and Seattle, the family came to Los Angeles, where Diep landed a job as a jewelry assembler. Saving enough for a down payment, he leased his first theater in nearby Garden Grove, where he played Chinese and Vietnamese movies (with English subtitles to lure a wider aud). With success there, he expanded to a three-theater complex: Cinemaland, located across from Disneyland, running from 1979 to 1984.
With daughter Jamie Nga Diep (now an executive producer with Ace Pix Intl.), he decided to go into distributing 15 martial arts films that he aquired from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Those films played in theaters across the country including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere.
He also returned to store ownership, feeding and clothing homeless people out of his boutique store on Hollywood Boulevard, from which he also dresssed magicians, rock groups and entertainers.
Donations can be made to Chua Dieu Phap Vietnamese-American Buddhist Congregation, 311 E. Mission Road, San Gabriel, CA 91776.