Hawaii Theatre

Entertainment & Arts

Oceania, United States, Oahu County

The Hawaii Theatre is a historic Vaudeville theatre and cinema in downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. It is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places. When Consolidated Amusement Company opened it in 1922, local newspapers called it "The Pride of the Pacific" and considered it the equal in opulence to any theatre in San Francisco or beyond. Honolulu architects Walter Emory and Marshall Webb employed elements of Neoclassical architecture for the exterior—with Byzantine, Corinthian, and Moorish ornamentation—and a rich panoply of Beaux-Arts architecture inside—Corinthian columns, a gilded dome, marble statuary, plush carpets, silk hangings, and a Lionel Walden mural on the proscenium. They also installed an innovative cooling system that allowed air from an ice storage room under the stage to flow through vents beneath the seats. The large neon marquee was the largest ever built in Honolulu. The Hawaii presented both Vaudeville entertainment and movies through the 1920s. Following the introduction of sound films, it operated as a deluxe movie theatre through the 1960s, gradually declining in the 1970s and falling into disrepair in the 1980s, until it finally closed in 1984. Concerned citizens united to save and restore it and formed the non-profit Hawaii Theatre Center, which purchased the theatre and several adjacent buildings in 1986. They raised funds for an extensive, $20.8 million renovation of the interior in 1994 directed by the Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer firm of New York City, which included a hydraulic lift to raise and lower the original pipe organ that used to accompany silent films. The theatre reopened in 1996, while exterior renovations continued through 2005. The Hawaii Theatre once again became a popular venue for stage shows and concerts. In 2005 the League of Historic America Theatres named it the "Outstanding Historic Theatre in America"; in 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation gave Hawaii Theatre its highest "Honor Award" for national preservation; and in 2006 the Hawaii Better Business Bureau presented its "Torch Award for Business Ethics" to the Hawaii Theatre Center, the first small nonprofit to receive that award. It is located at 1130 Bethel Street, between Hotel and Pauahi Streets, in downtown Honolulu at the edge of Chinatown.