The history behind Lihue Theater

The opening of the brand-new Lihue Theater on Sunday evening, Oct. 4, 1931, for two showings of “Min and Bill” at 6:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. proved to be a gala affair.

Crowds of people arrived at the theater long before the start of the first show by foot and in cars, which soon filled the free parking spaces on the Hanamaulu side of the theater, as well as those along the street as far away as the Garden Island Motors building.

People were impressed with Lihue Theater’s Spanish Mission architectural style, and with its size, for it was then one of the largest movie houses in Hawaii, illuminated that evening by an accentuating series of floodlights.

Inside, the theater’s more than 880 seats were occupied by moviegoers for both shows.

“Min and Bill,” a black-and-white talkie produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — a film for which Marie Dressler won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1930 — depicts the story of Min, the owner of a waterfront hotel played by Dressler, and Bill, her fisherman friend, played by Wallace Beery, doing their utmost to protect Min’s adopted daughter, Nancy, from the wiles of Nancy’s disreputable, blackmailing natural mother, Bella.

During the 1950s and 1960s, on every Saturday except the Saturday before Christmas, kids would watch cartoons, newsreels and movies at Lihue Theater from 10 a.m. to noon for only 10 cents.

But, on the Saturday before Christmas, the shows were free, and each child was treated to an apple, an orange and Christmas hard candy in a small brown paper bag.

Lihue Theater closed in 1974 after operating continuously for 43 years, and then served as a luau hall, discotheque and roller rink before being converted to senior apartments during the 1990s.


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