Waikiki Theatre No. 3, a fixture since 1936, will be replaced next year by retailers and restaurants.

Original Waikiki Theatre
to come tumbling down

The building will be demolished
early next year and will be replaced
by a three-story commercial facility

Waikiki Theatre No. 3, the original Waikiki Theatre from 1936, will be demolished early next year to make way for a three-story retail-restaurant complex.

Doubts about the grand old building's future were accelerated when Consolidated Amusement Co. closed that property and its two other theaters in the neighborhood a year ago.

But the fact that it will be pulled down has only become public in the last few weeks, confirmed by a public notice a week ago.

The theater was famed for its cinema organ, with the console that spun up from below to pipe live pre-show and intermission music to the audience, and projected clouds moving among the stars across the ceiling.

Plans now being circulated to city and state authorities call for the building to be razed and replaced by a three-story commercial building, with retailers on the ground floor and restaurants on the others.

Eileen Mortenson, a spokeswoman for Consolidated, confirmed that the building will be scrapped but said the timing has not been finalized. "It's likely to be sometime in the first quarter of calendar year 2004," she said.

Mortenson said plans for redevelopment have not been finalized.

However, Los Angeles-based Robertson Properties Group, retained by Consolidated to find the best ways to use its Waikiki properties, has presented a preliminary plan to state authorities and the Waikiki Neighborhood Board.

In a notice, seeking public comment by Dec. 8, Robertson said the intent is to demolish the building and build something three stories high with a smaller "footprint," taking up less of the 44,000-square-foot property owned by Consolidated.

Consolidated's Mortenson confirmed that the land taken up by the new building will be smaller than that of the existing theater.

Several small vendors operating out of carts at the back of the building, near others who operate in Duke's Lane, will not be chased away, said the Robertson Properties public filing. Instead, a bigger space will be provided for more such vendors, Robertson said in its notice to the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

The physical structures of the other Consolidated theaters in the area -- Waikiki No. 1 and No. 2, closed along with No. 3 a year ago, and the Imax theater, closed in July -- will remain.

Efforts are being made to find new retail tenants for those buildings.

The original Waikiki Theatre was known for its white-palace appearance and wide staircases leading up the auditorium courtyard, flanked by carp ponds and imitation tropical foliage.

Its marquee above the Kalakaua Avenue sidewalk bannered some of the most famous movies produced in Hollywood.

"The usherettes were beautiful island girls in white slacks and blouses with blazing red sashes over their left shoulders and around their slender waists," recalled Star-Bulletin columnist Ben Wood. "Flowers over their right ears and leis rounded out the outfits," he wrote.


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