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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 13, 2002

Plan for hula show sought

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Pleasant Hawaiian Hula Show, formerly known as the Kodak Hula Show, may be salvageable if new sponsors pool resources and look for ways to run it less expensively, a Hawai'i Tourism Authority marketing consultant said yesterday.

"The challenge is to take a feature like that and make it work economically," said Frank Haas.

The Hogan Family Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays, announced this week that it was ending its financial support of the 65-year-old show next month. Unless another sponsor is found, it could close down.

Haas said the tourism authority may be able to use money from its county and product enrichment fund to partially support the attraction.

"We could go find sponsors, form a hui," Haas said. "That way it is not such a burden on any one organization.

"Kodak handled it alone for years and years and years and then concluded it wasn't economically feasible," he said. "Then Hogan did the same, but now look."

Kodak was the show's sole sponsor for 62 years. After Kodak discontinued support in 1999, Pleasant Hawaiian stepped in at the last minute and kept the show from closing.

Haas said he did not want to discuss ways to make the show viable in detail because he had not yet reached Gary Hogan, the Hogan Family representative in Hawai'i, to discuss the possibilities.

Hogan said that the dancers were informed of the foundation's decision on Tuesday. He said foundation officials wanted to talk to the tourism authority, and mentioned the Hilo Hattie apparel company as a possible sponsor.

Paul deVille, president and chief operating officer of Hilo Hattie, and Carlton Kramer, vice president of sales, said yesterday they had not been contacted by the Hogan Family Foundation.

"I'm not aware of any approach at all — at least not to me," deVille said.

He said he was unsure whether the clothing retailer would be interested.

The price tag — about $500,000 a year — would be too big of an expenditure for Hilo Hattie or most local retailers to take on alone, he said.

Hogan's secretary said yesterday that Hogan had spent the day in meetings and would be unavailable for comment until early next week.

Fredrick Kamaka Sr., president of the Royal Hawaiian Girl's Glee Club, which provides the entertainers and ushers for the show, said much of the cost for the free performance is accounted for in salaries, which total about $325,000 per year.

The hula show is performed three days each week at the Waikiki Shell, and the cast includes about 32 entertainers for each show.

Attendance in recent years has been lower in general compared to the early days of Kodak sponsorship, when Hilo Hattie herself was among the dancers, Kamaka said. Management problems through the mid-1990s took a toll on attendance, and the tourism dearth that followed Sept. 11 had an effect.

The management problems — which included leaving the dancers in old and faded costumes and not paying them in a timely manner — were corrected in 1996 with a number of changes in administrative staff, he said. The Sept. 11 effect is wearing off a little.

Last week, the show attracted 752 people on Tuesday, 487 on Wednesday and 887 on Thursday. That's a far cry from the thousands of people who packed the stands in the early days but much better than the immediate post-Sept. 11 days.

"We had a couple of times when there were fewer than 100 people," Kamaka said.