Iao Theatre

68 N. Market Street,
Wailuku, HI 96793

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Iao Theatre

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Opened in 1928, and built in Spanish Mission style, this theater was once the main entertainment venue of the city of Wailuku, on Maui. Besides screening movies, it featured live stage acts, and such stars as Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra made appearances at the ‘Iao. In 1953, the theater hosted the Hawaiian premiere of “From Here to Eternity”.

By the early 1980’s, however, the theater was in decline, and after it closed, was seriously threatened with demolition. However, it was saved, and in 1995-96, underwent a million dollar-plus renovation.

It is now home to the Maui Onstage live theater group, which has ever since been struggling to continue the ‘Iao’s restoration and to just keep it remaining in operation.

Contributed by Bryan

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 2, 2006 at 3:54 pm

Designed by Edward Walsh. Opened August 22, 1928. Address:

68 N Market St
Wailuku, HI 96793

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 2, 2006 at 4:29 pm

Good question Chuck. There are two duplicate theaters on the Newest Theaters list that should have been removed. The Mac and the Rivera (Riviera) theaters should have been deleted by now. I’m still searching for my Royal theater which appears to be lost in space. There are days when the search engine doesn’t seem to work right or work at all. On those days, people should hold off on their submissions until the search engine does work.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 4, 2006 at 10:47 am

This is a photo of the Iao Theater and here is another.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on December 30, 2006 at 6:04 am

Added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1995

Iao Theater (added 1995 – Building – #94001622)
68 N. Market St., Wailuku
Historic Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: Walsh, Edward
Architectural Style: Mission/Spanish Revival
Area of Significance: Architecture, Social History
Period of Significance: 1925-1949
Owner: Local Gov’t
Historic Function: Recreation And Culture
Historic Sub-function: Theater
Current Function: Recreation And Culture
Current Sub-function: Theater

HowardBHaas on January 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm

At rental info, the website has 3 photos including auditorium facing stage.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm

This is another photo of the Iao Theater.

LowellAngell on June 2, 2008 at 2:47 am

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!

StephanieO on February 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Aloha Iao Theatre fans,
The historic Iao will celebrate its' 80th anniversary this March, 2009. I will update you all on the events planned for the grand dame of Maui…
Stephanie Ohigashi
PS. Please tell David…thanks.

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