Movie-Goers Reflect as Demolition of Varsity Theatre Gets Underway

MOILIILI (KHNL) -- It was a beloved theatre in Moiliili that featured independent and foreign films. On Monday, many expressed sadness as the former Varsity Theatre was demolished.

Using his camera phone, Duke Kema captures a historic moment as the old Varsity Theatre comes crashing down.

"My parents used to come here, you know, back in the day on their dates," the Waimalu resident said. "And I don't know, I was taking some pictures to show my mom. I think she's going to be real shocked."

As a demolition crew tears apart the landmark, which closed its curtains for good more than nine months ago, many stop and stare and reflect on old times.

"This was a great theatre to come to during all our teenage days," Kunane Sheldon, Kailua resident, said. "And all our friends, we all came here. So sad to see it go."

Kamehameha Schools acquired the Moiliili property last summer, and says it will convert it into a much-needed parking lot for now. A long-term plan is still in the works.

"I hope there is a venue for those sort of independent films and those foreign films, some of which were very moving for me," A.J. Mowbray, Kailua resident, said.

Under some covers are the theatre marquee and large film projectors that sat out front and welcomed movie-goers for decades. The pieces now belong to Varsity Restaurant across the street, which wants to put them on display.

"It was the last theatre of its kind left on the island," Nick Schlapak, restaurant owner, said. "And it was a goal of ours to try and preserve something from it."

He, too, is heart-broken over the demolition.

"I saw a lot of motion pictures there," Schlapak said. "And it's hard to see, you know, that part of history go. It's very difficult."

Kamehameha Schools says its long-term plan for the site includes retail and commercial use, and is being developed using input from the community.