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Here’s a view of the Paramount in 1971:
The NECCHI sign was still partly visible in this 1990 photo I took:
Here’s a photo of the plaza in front of the RKO Keith’s during the 1930’s. When did they remove that nice fountain?
Here’s another image of the Taft from the 1930s:
Oops, wrong link:
Here’s a 1936 photo of the Prospect that I found:
The round building is an office tower. Midway Island has been conquered by the albatrosses and numerous other birds, it’s a real nature preserve these days.
I went back today and shot a new video showing the Varsity, or rather what’s still there:
Good question. I haven’t heard any suggestion that it had, but it’s not impossible. More likely though, it was just age. The theater was located very close to the H-1 Freeway, and half a century of vibrations from the traffic could have had a weakening affect. It lasted almost 70 years, which isn’t too shabby.
Actually, movie534, the area I videotaped them demolishing was the front of the auditorium, behind the projectionists. By the time you read this, those wall will be rubble as well. Sad.
Thanks for your post, Bob. I almost imagined some ghost would be standing amid the Varsity’s rubble, like Gloria Swanson in the rubble of the Roxy:
I swung by the Varsity Theater demolition site today and made this video:
These are cool pictures, Kev. Did you mean to post them here, though? This is about the Varsity Theater, not the Waikiki. If you were just talking about lost Hawaii cinemas, never mind.
Molokai Ranch seems serious about closing everything at the end of this month. Layoffs are expected to be 120, which on a small island like Molokai (population about 7,000) is a BIG loss. And there will be no more movie theaters after the Tri-Plex closed.
Yeah, Bob. The Molokai Ranch is suspending all its operations on that island, including the Maunaloa movie house. As far as I know, it’s the only cinema on Molokai.
I’m sorry too. Here is today’s article on the demolition from the Honolulu Advertiser:
Varsity theater torn down for parking lot
By Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Varsity theater building was demolished yesterday after owner Kamehameha Schools found structural damage that would cost too much to repair. Kamehameha Schools gave away keepsakes from the theater to interested groups.
RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser
The old Varsity theater building in Mo'ili'ili was reduced to rubble yesterday after its owner, Kamehameha Schools, said recently uncovered structural damage made it cost prohibitive to save the building considered a landmark by some.
Though the building designed by noted architect C.W. Dickey is now gone like the era of single-screen movie theaters, parts of the theater â€" from bathroom sinks to the neon V-A-R-S-I-T-Y sign â€" were donated to nearby schools, organizations and businesses for reuse.
“The theater itself had many memories for a lot of people (but) the longer it stood there the more of a liability it was,” said Kamehameha Schools spokesman Kekoa Paulsen.
Paulsen said that after Kamehameha Schools acquired the building from a California-based affiliate of Consolidated Theatres that had closed the Varsity in June 2006, the trust initially envisioned renovating the building’s interior and leasing it to a commercial tenant until a longer-term redevelopment plan was devised.
But Paulsen said structural damage that included cracked walls from foundation settling pushed the estimated renovation cost to around $3 million to $5 million, which made the interim leasing plan financially infeasible.
“Some of the cracks ran all the way up to the ceiling,” he said.
So the former theater site is destined to become a public parking lot for at least the next three to five years.
In an effort to preserve some nostalgia of the theater built in 1939, Kamehameha Schools offered parts of the Varsity Twin Cinema for free to interested groups starting with schools and nearby community groups.
Paulsen said Kaimuki High School acquired the two picture screens, some art deco light fixtures and about 150 letters used on the theater’s marquee.
The horizontal neon V-A-R-S-I-T-Y sign above the movie title marquee was given to The Varsity, a bar across University Avenue from the theater site.
“The Varsity theater is our namesake,” said Nick Schlapak, managing partner of the bar formerly the home of Magoo’s Pizza.
“It’s a piece of history for the neighborhood.”
Schlapak said the galvanized steel sign with white neon lights inside each letter was broken and had been vandalized, but should be repairable.
Schlapak said he’d like to put the sign outside the bar if the city grants a permit. The bar also adopted two large cast iron projectors that stood like statues outside the theater that are intended for display.
Paulsen said several organizations looked through the Varsity for collectibles or reusable fixtures that included the theater’s popcorn machine and bathroom sinks, though some items including theater seating and tattered wall curtains attracted no takers.
Reach Andrew Gomes at
Demolition began today (March 19, 2007). I’ve included a photo on my Varsity Theater website:
I just posted my UA Quartet photo on my Flickr page:
Today I discovered some photos of the RKO Keith’s that I never saw before. They were taken in 1935 and 1936. I published them at this website:
Hey, SWCphotography, it’s really cool that you have that picture showing the “Finest Theatre….” sign as it appears today, all faded, so people can compare then and now! I have more photos of the area, not showing the RKO, if you want to see them you can email me at
I found and posted a couple of 1930’s photos showing the Flushing RKO Keith’s theater:
It’s now been 21 years – TWENTY-ONE YEARS – since the RKO closed its doors! Hard to believe it’s still in limbo. I guess it might end up like the New York State Pavilion, just rotting away until there’s no choice but to demolish it.
Then Huang should be investigated and prosecuted for bribery! Or has it been too long?
I just scrolled through some of the earlier postings and discovered that this connection has already been discussed as follows:
I wonder, though, if an investigation was ever made into whether an illegal deal was made by Huang and Manes? It seems a natural thing to investigate by a District Attorney, doesn’t it?