Hawaii Theatre is 100 and ready to celebrate. Just don’t call this iconic landmark old

It’s been 100 years since the curtain rose the first time at the Hawaii Theatre
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 6:01 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s been 100 years since the curtain rose for the first time at the Hawaii Theatre.

And on Tuesday, the iconic venue kicked off what will be a year-long celebration of its centennial.

“It’s certainly a great accomplishment for anything anywhere to last 100 years,” said Timothy Howell, Hawaii Theatre board of directors chair. “If you think about the history of Hawaii and what this building has seen in its various incarnations and it’s maybe even more amazing.”

For the last century, the Hawaii Theatre has been a downtown landmark, evolving from a silent film house in 1922 to a center for live performances.

Lisa Lee has been an integral part of that history, working in the theatre’s box office since 1996. She still remembers her first show, The Russian Ballet.

“People were dressed up, it was an exciting night,” Lee recalled. “We were flooded with people. It was just like Hollywood.”

But in 2020, COVID shutdowns erased the glitz and glamour.

“There were times when we got down to the last $100,000 in the bank and it was a real rallying cry with our volunteers, with our board members to help us raise money to keep the theatre going,” said Gregory Dunn, Hawaii Theatre president and CEO.

“Through the pandemic, we wound up laying off over 50 staff people and at one time, there were only three professional staff people that were left running the entire theatre operation.”

Fortunately, strong donor support kept the doors open.

And now, the theatre is preparing for a year-long centennial celebration with monthly events.

“Given all the different things people can focus on and of course all the concerns just around people’s well being, arts are still important and people are very focused on the theatre being a place where those arts can be displayed for all to see,” Howell said.

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