Varsity Twin Cinema

1106 University Avenue,
Honolulu, HI 96822

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Varsity Theater  Honolulu, HI  1997

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened September 8, 1939 with John Wayne in “Stagecoach”. The Varsity Theatre was designed by architect C.W. Dickey for Consolidated Theatres. During the late-1960’s and early-1970’s, the University of Hawaii used the theatre as a large daytime lecture hall.

On March 22, 1985 it was converted into a two-screen theatre, and since the late-1980’s, the Varsity Twin Cinema had specialized in bringing a loyal Hawaiian audience their newly-released art-house films.

After nearly 70 years, the Varsity Twin Cinema closed its doors on June 17th, 2007. It was demolished in early-2008, initial plans are to use the site for parking.

Contributed by Ben Stanton

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 25, 2008 at 9:04 am

That’s too bad. I’m glad I got to see it before it disappeared.

bobosan
bobosan on March 25, 2008 at 1:37 pm

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
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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

bobosan
bobosan on March 27, 2008 at 1:49 am

I swung by the Varsity Theater demolition site today and made this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmfbBsoKWDY

Vito
Vito on March 27, 2008 at 10:48 am

I stopped by as well an hour or so before they started the demolition, but I did not want to watch, it’s all to sad.
I remember watching the Royal come down, I drove there with Royal Development CEO,Herman Rosen, and after a few minures he said
“I can’t match this, lets go”

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on August 24, 2008 at 12:20 am

I imagine it is a parking lot by now. Much needed, I’m sure.

kpdennis
kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Sorry to hear it’s a goner. The Varsity – a photo sent me by the manager circa 1996:
View link

romananderson
romananderson on February 3, 2016 at 5:07 am

I saw the movie ‘Ed Wood’ there when it came out in the early nineties. It was the most memorable movie experience I’ve ever had due to the film breaking in middle of the movie. I thought it was part of the film because it fit so perfectly within the content. It was a perfect error to a pretty entertaining film and I’m glad I was there to experience it. There was much laughter in the theatre as I think we all thought initially that it was part of the picture.

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on April 13, 2016 at 4:26 am

Undated photo added courtesy of Ron Whitfield‎, via the Waikiki & Honolulu in the 50’s & 60’s.

rivest266
rivest266 on March 11, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Opened on September 8th, 1939. Grand opening in photo section and below:

Found on Newspapers.com powered by Newspapers.com

rivest266
rivest266 on March 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

2 screens on March 22nd, 1985. Grand opening ad in the photo section.

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