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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Kailua Cinemas closing

By Debbie Sokei
Advertiser Staff Writer

The good deal didn't last long at Kailua Cinemas.

Wallace Theatre Corp. said yesterday it will close its twin-screen Kailua Cinemas on Thursday after less than a year of offering movies for $1, or 50 cents before 6 p.m.

It's the second aging theater Wallace has closed in less than a year and the sixth theater in O'ahu to shut down in the past two years.

O'ahu's movie theaters are going through a shakeout after the opening of at least four new multi-screen complexes with stadium seating, digital sound and ample free parking since 1999. Those include Consolidated Theatres' Ward Stadium 16 and Ko'olau Stadium 10, and Signature Theatres' Dole Cannery 18 and Windward Stadium 10.

The older theaters are left to experiment with the dollar theater concept — which Wallace has done with Kailua, Keolu Center Cinemas and Restaurant Row 9 Theaters — or run art films — the tack Consolidate took with the Varsity and Aikahi.

"I'm not surprised," said Tim Clegg, a patron of Kailua Cinemas. "We figured that they are not making any money. Only a few times it's been packed. There are always seats available."

In the fall of 2002 Consolidated closed the Waikiki 1, 2 and 3 theaters. Wallace closed the Enchanted Lake Cinema tri-plex in July, and Consolidated closed the IMAX Waikiki that same month in part because of the lack of free parking.

David Lyons, vice president of marketing of Wallace Theatres, confirmed Kailua Cinemas is closing but did not return calls seeking further comment.

Wallace converted Kailua Cinemas to $1 theaters last summer, and the new format was an instant hit. By September, most evening and night shows on Friday and Saturday were sold out. The attendance stayed relatively strong. Last night the 7 p.m. showings of "Catch That Kid" and "Big Bounce" drew about 40 customers.

Trisha Kahapea, manager at the Kailua Cinemas, said attendance has been good at the theaters.

The discount format, showing mainstream movies several weeks after their first releases and making money on concessions, is one way older theaters can compete. Wallace's Lyons said last year the company switched the format at Kailua because of its close proximity to competitive stadium-seating complexes. After Kailua converted to the dollar format, Keolu and Restaurant Row also switched.

Don Brown, former general manager of Restaurant Row, was surprised to hear the Kailua theater will be closing.

"I thought they were doing good," Brown said.

Brown added theaters make most of their money on concession sales and not ticket sales.

In January, Wallace started offering $1 admission at Restaurant Row and switched the format from art films to older mainstream movies. The company decided to cancel the "Art House" featuring independent movies, foreign films and documentaries after disappointing ticket sales.

Moviegoers will also be able to watch $1 movies at Wallace's Keolu Center Cinemas, a couple of miles from the closing Kailua Cinemas. Wallace also has $1 movies at its Kress Cinemas in Hilo.

Wallace subleases the property the Kailua Cinemas sit on from Daiei Inc. An attorney for Daiei declined to comment on what will happen to the property after the theater closes.

One thing for sure, Kailua Cinemas had its fans and will be missed by them.

"We love these theaters. We drive all the way over from Makakilo," said Ellen Jones, who goes to the dollar theater twice a month with her husband, James Jones. "I even tell my husband not to see movies when they are first run. 'Wait until later. It is better for us.' "

"At least we can still go to Keolu," Ellen Jones said.

Reach Debbie Sokei at 525-8064 or dsokei@honoluluadvertiser.com.