Hanapepe’s Aloha Theater

On Sunday, Oct. 4, 1936, dedication services for the newly constructed Aloha Theater on Hanapepe Road were conducted by the Rev. Shinkan Tahara, the Shinto priest of the Lawai Shinto Temple.

And, on the following Saturday, Oct. 10, Aloha Theater opened, with its main attraction being the premiere performance of a one-week engagement of the Franchon &Marco Franchonettes direct from Honolulu — in what was to be the first-ever complete stage show seen on Kauai.

The Franchonettes were comprised of a troupe of chorus girls on stage singing, dancing, walking on large balls, riding unicycles, roller-skating, performing acrobatics from a velvet rope, and so forth, and a 40-cent ticket also provided theatergoers with an orchestra, a newsreel, a cartoon, a short subject and a feature film.

Designed by Honolulu architect Fred Fujioka and built at a cost of $40,000, Aloha Theater was also the first theater on Kauai equipped for stage performances.

Aloha Theater, a steel-and- concrete structure with stucco front, featured a seating capacity of 675, an interior completely lined with acoustical material, a balcony, a stage of 19 feet 6 inches by 36 feet, and a moving picture screen, all of which was cooled and ventilated by modern, up-to-date equipment.

Kauai Amusement Company owned Aloha Theater.

George Katsuto Watase was its manager and director, Shigezo Nakao its president, Kenichi Fujimoto first vice president, Edward Watase secretary, Yoshio Sagawa treasurer and Yoshizo Yamagata and Sakae Yoshioka auditors.

Their intention was to show for profit first-run films from the United States and talkies from Japan, bring in vaudeville troupes every few weeks, and be open for amateur theatrical performances.

Flash flooding of the Hanapepe River damaged Aloha Theater on three occasions.

It was flooded over the stage level in 1948, another flash flood in 1949 made its interior look like a swimming pool, and in 1957, the theater’s seats were flooded completely underwater.

Aloha Theater closed in 1981, but is now undergoing renovation designed to convert it into a smaller theater with event space, shops, a restaurant, a cafe, and a gallery.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. Kauaidoug August 18, 2019 3:28 pm Reply

    Excuse my ignorance but what’s to keep the Hanapepe river from flooding again. But very interesting the history. I hope a great boon to the Westside. Best show on island will be in Hanapepe and locals will have to travel Westside. Did I miss the opening date?

    1. Ed Justus August 19, 2019 1:54 pm Reply

      The Hanapepe River levy, built around the 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers, is what has prevented other flooding.

  2. Hank Soboleski August 19, 2019 11:59 pm Reply

    The Fanchon & Marco Fanchonettes were also billed as the Franchon & Marco Franchonettes in Hawaii.

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