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I want to correct some information above and add some further details about the Kuhio.
It opened on June 21, 1945 and seated 950. It was actually ready to open in early 1942, but after the Pearl Harbor attack, the Navy requisitioned it for use as an air-conditioned warehouse and office space during WWII, hence the delay. It was built by Consolidated Amusement Company, which was purchased in 1959 by Pacific Theatres/William Forman.
The theatre was twinned Dec. 15, 1976.
The Kuhio was the primary hard-ticket roadshow house for Consolidated . CinemaScope and stereophonic sound was first featured locally for The Robe on March 12, 1954. Todd-AO was introduced at the Kuhio for South Pacific on June 27, 1958. When the theatre first opened it had aisle carpeting that glowed under ultra-violet light.
It closed Nov. 30, 1995 and demolition began January 16, 1996.
Vincent Raney designed two other theatres for Honolulu after WWII, but they were never built.
I’ve been researching Hawaiian theatres for more than 50 years and wrote a book, Theatres of Hawaii, published by Arcadia in 2011. I’m always happy to hear from people with recollections of local theatres.
The Marina Twins were built in a former gas station, which opened onto the street (Ala Moana Blvd) and, because the building’s lower floors were a parking garage, the concrete floor of the gas station-turned-theatre sloped up off the street. The auditorium seats were placed facing the street and — instant rake! If you pulled back the sidewall curtain in the draped auditorium, the gas station sign was still on the wall which read “Turn off engine before refueling.”
In spite of their strange genesis, the Marina Twins were nice cozy theatres.
The theatre was leased by Consolidated Amusement to operators from the Phillipines from 1970-74 who renamed it the Zamboanga (after a city and province in the Phillipines) and they showed Filipino films.
After that it was converted to commercial space and leased for many by a printing company. The front arcade with retail space was enclosed by metal roll-up doors and a new large warehouse entrance was made on the side of the building. Inside, the balcony was removed and the floor rake eliminated (although the proscenium/stage area remained and was used for storage, as was the original lobby).
After they left, it was subdivided into two spaces and a church is now in the front half and the back half is commercial space. There is still a very small amount of decorative plaster left inside. The exterior plaster detailing is relatively intact but slowly disintegrating due to the weather and lack of maintenance…and the fact that the building is now 80 years old.
The Kapahulu was built and always operated by Consolidated; opened February 21, 1936; closed in March, 1980; demolition began April 2, 1980. It had a very plain interior, as did most of Consolidated’s 1930s neighborhood houses (the Toyo Theatre was one of the wonderful exceptions!), but it did have some fancy architectural detailing on the exterior.
The article in Main Line Media News unfortunately perpetuates some of the misinformation that has been written about the Hawaii in recent years.
The architectural style of the Hawaii was Neo-Classical/Beaux Arts, not Art Deco. In 1936, the outer and inner lobbies and mezzanine areas were redecorated with Tropical Deco elements, much of it locally crafted, but these were removed when the theatre was renovated in the 1990s. The present marquee is an exact replica of the one installed in 1936 (albeit with modern electronic readerboards), which was the largest neon sign in the islands, and was removed in the 1990s.
The painted mural (not tapestries) by artist Lionel Walden is on the sounding board above the proscenium, not on the walls. One half of the mural, painted on canvas, lifted off and fell (and WAS thrown out by an unknowing janitor) in the 1970s because the roof drains were plugged with debris and heavy rains accumulated and leaked onto the wood lath and plaster supporting the mural, half of which then gave way and fell. The other half was fine. Photos of the complete mural existed in not only in several local private collections, but in architectural magazines of the period held by many libraries in the country, among them the U. of Penn.
The Hawaii WAS among the first buildings in Hawaii to have modern air-conditioning (at the same time as the newly opened Waikiki Theatre) but fans did NOT blow over blocks of ice in the basement. That room referred to was part of an earlier simple ventilation system which passed air through sprays of water to “wash” it of smoke and impurities before being recirculated.(Yes, they allowed smoking in the balcony back then; in fact through the 1940s. This is why much of the interior decoration and gilding were discolored – from years of nicotine accumulation.) Cooling by blowing over blocks of ice would have added considerably more humidity in the already humid (typically 65-75%) Tropics and would have made the audience VERY uncomfortable! The windows in the auditorium could be opened at night to let the cool tradewinds blow in.
The Hawaii originally opened with 1,760 seats but that changed over the years to allow for better entrance/exit access, re-seating, etc.
I was one of the founders (and second president) of the group formed to save the Hawaii back in 1984 and I have been researching theatres in Honolulu for more than 40 years.
By the way, the 4/16 Robert Morton organ now in the Hawaii was originally in the nearby 1922 Princess Theatre, demolished in 1969 for urban renewal, and we were fortunately able to remove it just ahead of the wrecking ball and moved it to the Hawaii. The Hawaii’s original organ had been moved to the Waikiki in 1937 (and is now at the Palace Theatre in Hilo).
A delayed answer to a question above.
The organ chambers were in a basement under the stage and spoke through grills under the stage apron. Not very desirable to say the least!
I’m certain the theatre interior was never remodeled or gutten/rebuilt.
I worked there briefly back in the mid-60s in my first teenage summer job (as vacation relief), and even then was a theatre (and organ) buff. My uncle also played the organ there on occasion back in the 30s (but he was not a professional musician). I recall that the basement area, which also had some dressing rooms, was cramped with low headroom, filthy and had rats running around, probably because the popcorn supply was stored backstage.
Here is some information from a recent article in a military-related magazine on the naming of Sharkey Theatre:
“Sharkey Theatre and Our Fallen Heros"
By Anna Marie General
From Liberty Call magazine, January-Fenruary, 2010
“For years people believed that Sharkey Theater was named after boxing legend Thomas Joseph Sharkey, who was a master at arms assigned to the USS Philadelphia, a Navy cruiser in the late 19th/early 20th century. It was generally accepted for years that it was named after him, but data recently was uncovered that there was a Lt. William Sharkey who was killed in a battery explosion aboard a submarine in 1918. There is speculation that Cmdr. (later Fleet Adm.) Chester W. Nimitz,the first commanding officer of Pearl Harbor Naval Submarine Base, named the theater in honor of his friend Lt. Sharkey.”
I think that the Navy would have been more likely to name a building on a base after a sailor who died in an explosion there than someone who gained fame after he left the Navy.
I’d like to correct the comment above that the Iao was "patterned after the Princess Theatre in Honolulu." There is actually no similarity between the two apart from the fact that both were "stadium style" houses. I spent a great deal of time in the Princess in the '60s with the organ (which we removed just shortly before the theatre was demolished in 1969 and reinstalled in the Hawaii Theatre two blocks away) and also wrote a history of the Princess. The theatre that WAS patterned after the Princess is the PALACE in Hilo, which in fact was designed by the two surviving architects of the Princess, Davis and Fishbourne. It is nearly identical in plan and very similar in decor, only on a much smaller scale. (The Princess was the 2nd largest theatre in Hawaii at 1650 seats.) There were actually five theatres in Wailuku at one time, and many more on the rest of the island in the 20s and 30s. TheIao is the only one left; it’s great that it survived!
Iao was "patterned after the Princess Theatre in Honolulu." There is actually no similarity between the two apart from the fact that both were "stadium style" houses. I spent a great deal of time in the Princess in the '60s with the organ (which we removed just shortly before the theatre was demolished in 1969 and reinstalled in the Hawaii Theatre two blocks away) and also wrote a history of the Princess. The theatre that WAS patterned after the Princess is the PALACE in Hilo, which in fact was designed by the two surviving architects of the Princess, Davis and Fishbourne. It is nearly identical in plan and very similar in decor, only on a much smaller scale. (The Princess was the 2nd largest theatre in Hawaii at 1650 seats.) There were actually five theatres in Wailuku at one time, and many more on the rest of the island in the 20s and 30s. The
The Varsity, for as plainly decorated as it was (although designed by one of Hawaii’s foremost architects), was the last (and oldest) free-standing operating movie theatre in Honolulu. It was the sole survivor of the numerous neighborhood theatres built by Consolidated Amusement in the 1930s. Perhaps its most notable distinction was its glorious large neon marquee. The Varsity may not have been fancy, but it had a loyal following as a convenient neighborhood theatre with easy parking.
It will have a new life for at least the next three years as the home of the Laugh Factory Hawaii comedy club.
There are a few photos of the Waikiki on the Theatre Historical Society’s website HERE http://www.historictheatres.org/gl-lsa.html
A complete illustrated history of the Waikiki Theatre, “Tropical Dreams,” was published in THS’s quarterly journal MARQUEE [4th Quarter, 2003], written by myself. This back issue is available for purchase online on the THS website HERE View link for $5 plus postage.
The Waikiki was unquestionably the most beautiful theatre ever built in Hawaii and, aruguably, among the most beautiful in the U.S. for its unique tropical Moderne style. Those of us who were fortunate to have been there in its heyday, or even in its last days, treasure the experience and memory of it.
You’re correct Vito, and when the Cinerama Theatre was converted to a retail store, the projectors were removed by Pacific Theatres (parent company of Consolidated) and taken to Los Angeles to the Cinerama Dome for re-use.
The architects correct names are (Clinton) Ripley, (Louis) Davis and (Ralph) Fishbourne.
The Princess (not the Palace) was built on the site of the Orpheum theatre.
It was designed in the neo-classical Beaux Arts style and opened on November 8, 1922 (not 1928) with its own full orchestra. The theatre was built by an independent operator but became part of the Consolidated Amusement Company chain within a couple years. In 1939 it was “modernized” both inside and out; only the elaborate coffered ceiling survived intact.
In addition to films, the theatre also presented stage shows and local symphony orchestra concerts. During World War II, like all Honolulu theatres, it was filled to capacity with servicemen.
The Princess had a 4/22 Robert Morton pipe organ, which I helped remove shortly before the theatre was demolished in 1969 (due to municipal urban renewal) and move to the nearby Hawaii Theatre, where it was eventually reinstalled and is still played on occasion.
By the way, when Cinerama moved from the Princess to the new Cinerama Theatre (former Pawaa), they did show three strip films there — The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won.