Varsity Twin Cinema

1106 University Avenue,
Honolulu, HI 96822

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Varsity Theater  Honolulu, HI  1997

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Opened in 1939, the Varsity Theatre was designed by architect C.W. Dickey. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the University of Hawaii used the theatre as a large daytime lecture hall.

In the early 1980’s, it was converted into a two-screen theatre, and since the late 1980’s, the Varsity 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)

Vito
Vito on January 7, 2008 at 8:48 am

Thanks for the pictures Ken.
I was surprised to see the pictures of the projector.
They are not photos of the projector that was in use in the Varisty booth, it is one of the machines we had mounted outside the Consolidated Home Office on Sand Lane before it closed. How they got to the varsity I will never know.

Vito
Vito on March 8, 2008 at 1:59 pm

I was Sorry to pick up the paper and read some sad news.

The Varsity is scheduled to be demolished by the end of the month.
Officials from the owner, Kamehameha Schools, said significant structural problems with the building has occured.
An exact date of the demolition has yet to be determined.

As we know, the theater was purchased by Kamehameha Schools last summer from Consolidated Theatres.
They were looking into preserving the building for another use, but large cracks in the ceiling, walls and columns were found during an inspection. Mold, rust and significant settling were also found.
Before the demolition plans,Laugh Factory, a comedy club,had expressed interest in holding shows at the theater, but an agreement could not be reached between Kamehameha Schools and the club.
Since the theater shut last year, homeless people have been using the site as shelter, and the building has been vandalized. Vintage movie posters and light fixtures were stolen.

bobosan
bobosan on March 24, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Demolition began today (March 19, 2007). I’ve included a photo on my Varsity Theater website:

http://bobster1985.tripod.com/

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 25, 2008 at 4:04 am

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

bobosan
bobosan on March 25, 2008 at 8:37 am

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
spacer spacer

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 26, 2008 at 8:49 pm

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 5:48 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 23, 2008 at 6:20 pm

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

kpdennis
kpdennis on April 25, 2009 at 4:47 pm

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

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