The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Sunday May 8, 2011
"Theatres of Hawai’i," by Lowell Angell (Arcadia, $21.99)
By Burl Burlingame, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Another title in Arcadia’s sepia-cover picture-book series, this one is a winner, thanks to author Angell’s obsessive scholarship and sheer love for the subject. Theaters first opened their doors in Hawaii in 1847 and have played a primary role in island culture ever since, presenting plays, musicals, movies, vaudeville, lectures, sermons and high school graduations.
They range from simple outdoor projection booths to grand Art Deco landmarks like the Hawaii Theatre in Chinatown.
Angell writes with great precision. The book’s organization is well mapped, including a case study of the beautiful Waikiki Theatre, and there are signs of cheeky humor and empathy for Hawaii’s theater employees as well.
The pictures, mostly from the author’s own collection, are well chosen and reproduced crisply. There is plenty of period detail to pore over.
If there’s an oversight, it’s that the chains of military theaters are somewhat slighted. The meat of "Theatres of Hawai’i," though, is the theaters that once stood in neighborhoods and commercial zones, now long gone, golden palaces of projected imagination and wonder, reduced to parking lots, warehouses and strip malls. The Royal, the Kuhio, the Varsity, the Hilo, the Toyo, others, all gone.
Before the film began in the Waikiki Theatre, clouds would play overhead on the azure vault of a ceiling, the horizon composed of a re-created jungle, as Bob Alder or Johnny DeMello played the pipe organ. As the lights went down and the movie began, stars twinkled overhead. It’s not really an experience available on Blu-ray.