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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 26, 2001

Thousands see 'Pearl Harbor' in 7:55 a.m. showings

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 •  Advertiser special: The Pearl Harbor Story — Major Movie, Real Memories

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Staff Writer

Edward Unutoa liked it. So did his date, Vita Kaleopa.

A young couple take in the huge movie poster advertising "Pearl Harbor" at the Signature Theatres in Dole Cannery.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

OK, so they weren't the most objective critics on the planet. They had gotten up in the first light of day to head into neon-lit darkness for yesterday's 7:55 a.m. screening of "Pearl Harbor."

And they weren't at the Dole Cannery Signature Theatres for the 50-cent popcorn, either.

"I really wanted to see it," said Kaleopa.

Several solo moviegoers exiting from one of the complex's five auditoriums playing "Pearl Harbor" wouldn't give their names because they were supposed to be at work. Sonny Gollero, however, was a brave guy, being Army National Guard and all. Besides, he had the day off.

"It was exciting," he said, adding that he enjoyed "the history, not the hype."

Thousands flocked to local theaters for the film's opening yesterday, but the turnout paled in comparison with the excitement generated two years ago when "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" opened.

Signature timed the opening of its Dole Cannery theaters with the first showing of "Phantom Menace" and sold out all five screens a day ahead of time. Thousands waited in line for hours, including one man who camped out for two days just to be the first in line.

Yesterday, there were no reports of overnight camping at any of the theaters. But more than 1,500 moviegoers did watch the 7:55 a.m. showing at Consolidated's new theaters at the Ward Entertainment Center, said spokeswoman Eileen Mortenson.

Jason Ragaza brought his 81-year-old grandmother, Elizabeth Ragaza, to see "Pearl Harbor" at the Cannery's 7:55 a.m. showing. She knew the story intimately, but the real story, not the Jerry Bruckheimer-Michael Bay spectacle. She lived in Kamehameha housing at the time of the attack.

Elizabeth Ragaza remembers the "date which will live in infamy" like it was yesterday.

The USS Stennis left Pearl Harbor yesterday for its home port in San Diego.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

"We wondered, why are they having practice so early?" the silver-haired Filipina recalled. "Usually, it's white smoke when they practice. This time it was black smoke. My uncle came in, said: 'This is strange, yeah?' We turned on the radio."

Outside, she recalled, military people were rushing around and the Red Cross set up immediately at nearby Farrington High, turning it into a makeshift hospital.

"It was awful, it was something you never forget.

"... I tell you, on Dec. 6, the Navy wives had special party for all the Filipino members of the fleet reserve who came in. We never saw any one of them after they went back to the ship. It was very sad."

She recommends the movie, but for the history lesson, not the Ben Affleck-Josh Hartnett-Kate Beckinsale love triangle.

"I think everyone should come to see it," she said. "They would appreciate what life is like now, no more complaining. We can be grateful that we're living in such a democracy right now."

Her grandson, Jason, who grew up in the postwar democracy that is Hawai'i but now lives in Arizona, wasn't as enamored.

He was bothered by the 175-minute length of the show and by the epithets for Japanese Americans, but mostly because "there were no locals in the movie!"

"That bothered me," he said.

Decked out in lei and aloha wear was Charla Snyder, whose 63rd birthday had a "Pearl Harbor" theme. Her sister, Hana Batten, was taking her to a restaurant at Pearl Harbor for a celebratory lunch after the early Dole Cannery showing.

The Native Hawaiian sisters said their father was a stevedore at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack. He told them about the devastation. Their mother wouldn't really talk about it, they said, but she did say that she didn't see or hear from her husband for a week afterward because he was in lockdown.

The sisters both said they enjoyed the movie.

In their matching "Hawaii Film Crew 2000" T-shirts, Darren Sato, 23, and Susan Gilhooly, 28, were among the last to leave the Dole Cannery theater at almost 11 a.m. They had waded through five minutes of credits — "after the name of the dog" and after all the Mainland credits — to see the names of their boss' catering company, Beau Soleil, which provided food for the crew.

The portrayal of Japanese Americans didn't bother Sato, though he was caught up in the anti-enemy sentiment at one point.

Although they liked the movie overall, they did remark that it didn't show much local culture, and what was shown was rather cliche. "And they didn't look local," Sato said. "More like Hollywood thinks of local."

Gilhooly is going to recommend the three-hour movie to her friends, with this caveat: "Go to the bathroom first."

Advertiser staff writer Curtis Lum contributed to this report.