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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 21, 2002

Final curtain falls on three Waikiki theaters

By Andy Yamaguchi and Walter Wright
Advertiser Staff Writers

Consolidated Amusement yesterday made a stunning, but not entirely unexpected, decision to close its Waikiki 1, 2 and 3 theaters, once Hawai'i's flagship cinemas but since overtaken by modern multiplexes.

People buy tickets to "Harry Potter" at Waikiki #1 at 10:30 p.m., the theater's last showing.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

Last night's showings were the theaters' last. The magic ended at 1:25 this morning, when the last showing of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" let out.

Consolidated cited low attendance and an opportunity to shift the employees to its Ward theater complex and other properties.

Company officials made the decision about 5 p.m. yesterday and told employees shortly after that, said Glenn Yim, company vice president of operations.

"If you look at the attendance, it's very low," Yim said. "People stopped going, particularly because of the Ward. The businesses have not been viable for a while." Yim said the Waikiki theaters have been losing money for some time.

All 30 employees of the three Waikiki theaters will move to jobs at other Consolidated theaters, mostly at the Ward Stadium 16 complex, Yim said.

Waikiki 3 was constructed before many of the city's hotels dotted the skyline.

Advertiser library photo • 1937

He said the decision was made yesterday because the company had to decide whether to hire seasonal workers for the holiday season or shift its current employees, and also whether to book the Waikiki theaters for upcoming movies.

Yim said the company has no plan for what it will do with the properties. It owns the land under the theaters.

The IMAX theater will remain open and will also show traditional movies, Yim said.

The theaters were among Hawai'i's biggest. The Waikiki 3 on Kalakaua, which once had faux banana trees and an organist, has about 1,200 seats. The 1 and 2 on Seaside seat about 900 each.

Yim said he met with the employees about an hour after the decision was made. "It was emotional, but they also knew this was in the works for a while. ... We've been talking about closing the theaters since 1990."

Dean Gonsalves, a projectionist at No. 2, heard the announcement, then returned to see the 10:30 p.m. showing of "8 Mile." To be there for the last picture show, he said.

Waikiki 3 was once decorated with concrete coconut trees and banana palms and featured an organ. The theater had about 1,200 seats for moviegoers.

Advertiser library photo • July 1979

"Everyone's sad because it's a part of this community and a lot of people who come to see the movies will miss this theater," said Gonsalves, who showed movies on No. 2's 60-by-40-foot screen. But he said he didn't think the closing meant the end of big-screen entertainment in Hawai'i.

Street musician Steve Sunn, aka Sunny Beethoven, who plays his bongos in front of the Waikiki 3 and has watched many films inside it, said, "How can they be closing down? That's terrible. I don't get it."

Asked about the possibility of shops being developed there, he said, "Personally I think we got too many stores in Waikiki. That's like having two bands on one stage playing different tunes."

From a business standpoint, the timing was right, Yim said.

"We were trying to make a decision all week if this was the right thing to do. As we were looking at the business for the Thanksgiving weekend, our biggest of the year, we decided to do this now. ... Rather than hire seasonal help, all of our (current) employees have work opportunity."

He said "the present Hawai'i economy is not conducive to major development. ... (But) Waikiki needs some sort of redevelopment and hopefully there will be something else there that will re-energize and bring people back to the district."