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Hawaii Theatre in Chinatown

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Hawaii Theatre

The Hawaii Theatre is a historic vaudeville theatre and cinema located near downtown Honolulu, Hawaii. It has been listed on the State and National register of Historic Places. The location is 1130 Bethel Street, between Hotel and Pauahi Streets near the edge of Chinatown. This historic landmark is surrounded by what is now known as the Arts District and is a favorite sightseeing spot amongst tourists and locals alike. The Consolidated Amusement Company first opened the theatre in 1922.

The theatre was called the “Pride of the Pacific” by the local newspapers and was largely considered to be as extravagant as any of the theaters in San Francisco and beyond. The building was designed by Honolulu architects Walter Emory and Marshall Webb. They used Neoclassical architecture for the outside and a very definitive Beaux-Arts style for the interior, including Corinthian columns, gilded dome, marble statuary, silk hangings, plush carpeting, and a Lionel Walden mural located on the proscenium. They also decided to install a very innovative cooling system that used air from the ice storage unit underneath the stage and pumped it out of vents located beneath the seats. The ornate and very large neon marquee sign was the largest ever built in Honolulu.

The theatre provided both vaudeville and silent movies throughout the 1920's. Following the introduction of sound films the theatre was then used as a deluxe movie theater through the 1960's gradually falling off into the 1970's and falling into disrepair in the 1980's. The doors were closed in 1984, in 1986 a group of concerned citizens came together and formed a non-profit organization called Hawaii Theatre Center. This group came to purchase the theater and several adjacent buildings. They then began raising funds in order to renovate the interior at a cost of 20.8 million dollars, in 1994. The renovation included a hydraulic lift to raise and lower the original pipe organ console that was used to accompany silent films. The theater reopened in 1996 and exterior renovations continued until 2005. The Hawaii Theater is once again a popular sightseeing attraction and a great venue for stage shows and concerts. The theater and the non-profit organization have received many awards. In 2005, the theater was named “Outstanding Historic Theater in America” by the League of Historic America Theaters. Then again in 2006 the National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded the theater its highest “Honor Award” for national preservation. Also in 2006 the Hawaii Better Business Bureau awarded the Hawaii Theater Center its “Torch Award for Business Ethics”, the first small non-profit to receive the award.