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Tourists jet to New York know to see an opera or broadway; to Vegas, it’s the Cirque du Soleil. But for those traveling to Hawaii, theatrical performances get lost somewhere in the three S’s of Sun, Sand and Surf. So lost, in fact, that many leave without even knowing the historic Hawaii Theatre exists.
Tucked away in Honolulu’s Chinatown, the Hawaii Theatre almost became a thing of the past.
When it first opened in the early 1920s, people called it “The Pride of the Pacific” – boasting the same top-notch, state-of-the-art standards as mainland theaters. The Hawaii Theatre quickly became an entertainment hot spot that presented an all-in-one venue of both movies and theatrical acts in the heart of Honolulu’s arts district. The theatre brought a worldly perspective on the small island chain in the Pacific. Its neoclassical architecture of Corinthian columns, a glided dome, plush carpets and marble statuary was unlike anything Hawaii had ever seen.
But as television grew increasingly popular, the Hawaii Theatre began to slowly fall into disrepair until finally closing in 1984. Luckily, a group of dedicated citizens saved the building from being demolished; they brought in an award-winning designer from New York, who helped transform Hawaii Theatre into what we see today. A little more than a decade ago, the quiet theatre on Bethel Street resurfaced into the community as Honolulu’s pre-eminent venue – complete with computerized LED signage and a replica of the hallmark “HAWAII” vertical sign outside.
A sign that has lit up an important revival in our island history.
It has since received several awards, including “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America” and landed a spot in the State and National Register of Historic Places. I’d say that definitely makes it worth checking out; even if you can’t attend a show, you should still make it one of your stops while in Hawaii. But if you do hope to see a show, check out their website for the latest in town. Local performers, like Jack Johnson, chose to have his show here in support of the downtown Honolulu revitalization.
HAWAII THEATRE • 1130 Bethel St., Honolulu, HI 96813 • Box Office opens Tues-Sat 9am-5pm • 808-528-0506 • www.hawaiitheatre.com • Metered street parking; near bus route
Source: Hawaii Theatre