Hollywood meets Hawaii at the old Honolulu Advertiser building

Inside the old Advertiser is a room used as medical examiner's morgue on Hawaii Five-O.
Inside the old Advertiser is a room used as medical examiner's morgue on Hawaii Five-O.
Angie Laprete
Angie Laprete

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A trivia question for you: what iconic Honolulu building houses a police department, a tsunami center, a medical examiner's morgue, and even a brothel? Hmmmm. Stumped?

It's the old Honolulu Advertiser building on Kapiolani Boulevard in downtown, and these days, it's the center of operations for the hit show, Hawaii Five-0.

Steve McGarrett can call the three-and-a-half acres of prime real estate in Honolulu "home". Well, sort of.

"We're standing just outside Steve McGarrett's house," says co-executive producer and director, Brad Turner. "The ocean's just over there," he points to a big blue screen. "There's a backdrop now for the ocean."

Turner shows us how they've transformed the old newspaper property into a Hollywood soundstage. "It's kind of movie magic at work again."

McGarrett's house - and Danno's apartment – are nothing more than four walls suspended from the ceiling. There are no foundations. But the inside is decorated as any home would be, and it looks very realistic. Both sets are located within one the newspaper's old storage warehouses. "The idea is: control the sound. Control the look. Control the light." It's easier and cheaper to build the sets than shoot on location over a long period of time.

The process for building the sets actually starts in the main building. The art department conceptualizes the sets according to the way a script is written. Then, the designs head down to the construction mill located, for now, in what was the Advertiser's paper warehouse.

Turner says, "We're moving the mill into where the printing presses used to be, and we're going to build HQ in here"

HQ is Five-0's headquarters – currently shot in the back of the Old Federal building in downtown, but next season, the main sets will all be at the old Advertiser. A good sign. "As we build more sets, yeah, it does indicate that we're going to be here for a long time. It's something we're committing to, yes," says Turner.

When they're not creating sets, they're converting old rooms on the compound. In 1929, the Beaux-arts style building boasted one of the most beautiful front entrances in all of Honolulu - with terra cotta detailing and a grand, quarried style staircase. Newspaper employees sat at their desks in the big, front room. Today, actors sit at the desks, in what is now, a fake police squad room.

They've used every nook and cranny of this old newspaper building to shoot. 95% of the property is being utilized in some way. The upstairs hallway was a brothel in one episode. On the second floor, the tsunami warning center sits ready for action, if needed, and downstairs, old newspaper offices have become the medical examiner's morgue. Even the parking lot is used to shoot. Production supervisor, Angie Laprete, wants to see more kama'aina working around the property.

"One of my missions is to get as many local crews as we can on the show," says Laprete."And what's nice about it is we have about 80-85% locals"

The Gannett corporation eventually plans to sell or redevelop this property - reportedly assessed at 16-and-a-half million dollars. For now, though, this iconic building – which is not on the list of historic buildings - will continue to sit at the busy intersection where Hollywood meets Hawaii.

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