Varsity Twin Cinema

1106 University Avenue,
Honolulu, HI 96822

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Showing 1 - 25 of 29 comments

RickT on May 15, 2018 at 11:47 pm

Bummer; another closed old-school theater. I was stationed on Oahu from late 1983-1987 and saw movies mostly in other theaters (like Waikiki 1,2 & 3, and the Kapiolani Theater) but did see Black Widow here in early 1987, shortly before leaving the islands. Then I moved back to Honolulu as a civilian from 2002-2005 and saw a few here with my wife and our young son. The one that stands out the most was seeing The Piano with my wife in the summer or fall of 2002, my first time back to the Varsity since 1987 and my wife’s first time ever. So sad to see these old places go.

rivest266 on March 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

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

rivest266 on March 11, 2017 at 9:35 pm

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

Found on powered by

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.

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.

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

kencmcintyre on August 24, 2008 at 12:20 am

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

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”

bobosan on March 27, 2008 at 1:49 am

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

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

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 on March 25, 2008 at 4:32 am

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

Vito on March 8, 2008 at 7:59 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.

Vito on January 7, 2008 at 2:48 pm

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 on December 14, 2007 at 11:43 am

Looking forward to the pics. I haven’t been back to Hawaii in quite somwe time. The old Cinerama site is not far from the Varsity, did you perhaps get any photos of that theatre?
You might go into Waikiki and see what has taken the place of the Waikiki theatres 1-2-3 as well.

kencmcintyre on December 13, 2007 at 11:35 pm

This is a good hike from the hotel district. We either roasted in the sun or got pelted by rain along the way. The weather changes every five minutes or so. I will post the pictures later.

kencmcintyre on December 10, 2007 at 3:13 am

I saw the Varsity on the way in from the airport. I will try to get over there and take some pictures.

LowellAngell on September 8, 2007 at 10:23 pm

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.

Vito on June 29, 2007 at 12:04 pm


Kamehameha Schools is acquiring the Varsity Theatre site in Moiliili in a land exchange that gives Robertson Properties Group the trust’s old Kamehameha Drive-In property in Aiea.
The deal, announced Wednesday, gives Hawaii’s largest private landowner the deed to the 1.7-acre Varsity property on University Avenue, which includes the Varsity Office Building, in exchange for the property at the corner of Moanalua Road and Kaonohi Street near Pearlridge Center and an undisclosed cash payment.

Los Angeles-based Robertson Properties Group is owned by Pacific Theatres parent Decurion. Pacific Theatres owns Consolidated Theatres and the Varsity Theatre.
“Consolidated’s decision to close the Varsity provided us with an opportunity to acquire a strategically valuable piece of property,” Kirk Belsby, vice president for endowment for Kamehameha Schools, said in a statement.
“It strengthens our ties with the university community and with Moiliili business and residential communities, and it strengthens our ability to support our educational programs and services.”
Robertson plans to redevelop the Aiea site and will come up with a master plan in the coming months, said John Manavian, vice president of development for Robertson Properties Group.
Kamehameha Schools plans to upgrade the Moiliili area, which includes Puck’s Alley, in the next few years, said Tara Young, senior commercial asset manager for Kamehameha Schools.
“The Varsity property adds even greater synergy to our options and opportunities in Moiliili,” she said.
Robertson Properties Group recently completed the renovation of the former Waikiki Theatre site on Kalakaua Avenue, now called the Center of Waikiki, and is currently developing a shopping mall called Pearl City Gateway on the city’s former Manana land in Pearl City.
“Oahu is one of our core target markets where we are actively developing and acquiring land,” Manavian said. “It also is a challenging market but we are well-positioned to move quickly and pursue opportunities where we can bring new uses to older properties and reposition them to better serve Oahu residents.”

unc1dmo on June 22, 2007 at 7:56 pm

Monday, June 18, 2007

After 68 years, the Varsity Twin Cinema closed its doors for good yesterday, drawing a modest Sunday audience of theater regulars and foreign-film buffs

Designed by noted architect C.W. Dickey, the Varsity opened in September 1939 as a single-screen cinema featuring the John Wayne movie “Stagecoach.”

During the 1960s and 1970s, the theater served in the daytime as a lecture hall for introductory courses for freshman at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa.

In the early 1980s, the Varsity was remodeled to the two-screen format it has today, and in February 1988, Consolidated converted the Varsity into an art-house theater.

Vito on June 16, 2007 at 12:29 pm

One of the last of the theatre treasures in Hawaii is gone.
Now, only the downtown Hawaii remains.

bobosan on June 16, 2007 at 11:01 am

I just created a website with photos of the Varsity Theater Honolulu.

Here is the link:

bobosan on June 16, 2007 at 6:35 am


Varsity movie theater to close Sunday

Sunday will be the last day of operation for the Varsity Twin Cinema, an aging movie theater â€" long known for art-house and foreign film offerings â€" near the University of Hawai'i’s Manoa campus.

Consolidated Theatres owns the 1.7-acre property at 1106 University Ave., near Beretania Street. The theater was built in 1939.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on May 26, 2007 at 10:57 am

The Varsity Theatre was opened by the Consolidated Amusement Co. as a single screen theatre on 8th September 1939. It was surrounded by a tropical garden.