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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 5, 2006

Hawai'i Theatre wins national recognition

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Restoration and reopening of the facility has reinvigorated efforts to turn downtown/Chinatown into a local cultural arts destination.

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The Hawai'i Theatre, which has been the centerpiece of downtown Honolulu's arts revitalization, has won the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation Honor Award, the most significant laurel since its 1996 interior renovation.

"Movie palaces are all about fantasy but the restoration of the Hawai'i Theatre has sparked a revitalization that is a vibrant reality," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in a prepared statement. "The restoration of the Hawai'i is a lasting tribute to a community that refused to see a cherished icon lost forever."

Two theater officials Sarah Richards, Hawai'i Theatre president, and Robert R. Midkiff, chairman emeritus were at an awards ceremony in Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Often called "The Pride of the Pacific," the Hawai'i Theatre has had a luminous and checkered past. It once was a movie theater and the corporate headquarters of Consolidated Amusement Co., which operated numerous movie houses in the Islands. But the building was closed and then deteriorated until community leaders rallied to bring it back to its former glory.

In singling out the Hawai'i Theatre, the trust cited it as a "financially successful and drop-dead glamorous performance venue that attracts more than 100,000 patrons annually," saying its success has jump-started revitalization all over Chinatown, reversing decay and attracting reinvestment that has spruced up every building in the theater's vicinity.

The site is now home for a Hawaiian music series, hosts annual film screenings and Christmas revue and provides out-of-town shows a reputable state-of-the-art performing space.

More than 60,000 people now live near the theater, and thousands more flock to the restaurants, stores and galleries that have sprung up since the theater's reopening.

Fourteen other refurbished facilities also were recognized.

Reach Wayne Harada at wharada@honoluluadvertiser.com.