by Liza Simon
photo by Jim Shea
Mike Faye wanted to make sure that his boyhood town in West Kauai hadn’t run its Last Picture Show. He’d spent his childhood in the old movie house on Main Street in Waimea, watching classics like The Guns of Navarone and eating chewy strips of dried ika (squid) from the snack bar. "It had red dye on it that would get all over my pockets, and my sisters hated it because they did the wash," he chuckles.
In a sign of changing times, the Waimea Theater closed its art deco-inspired doors in the early 1970s, and the Hinazumi family opened up a feed store and sporting goods shop in the building. Some might have written this off as inevitable "progress," but not Faye, who grew up with an ingrained sense of Waimea’s history: His grandfather arrived on Kaua‘i in 1880 from Norway and, with land leased from the crown, built a sugar plantation that remained at the center of West Kauai life for nearly a century.
The idea of re-opening the old Waimea Theater as "a way to keep the town light on after dark," as Faye puts it, gained support in the 1980s. Preservation instincts were spurred when it became known that the building’s owners were considering bringing in a wrecking ball. With the help of Kauai County, Faye spearheaded efforts to save the old Saturday night emporium. Then came two powerful hurricanes that nearly accomplished the demolition naturally: Massive damage was sustained up and down Main Street in 1982 and 1992. Ironically, says Faye, the big storms fueled passion for the movie house project.
With an injection of federal hurricane relief money, the long-hoped-for renovation got underway. In 2000, under town management and with some 200 plush seats and a state-of-the-art screen and projector, the old but new Waimea Theater welcomed film lovers. At least four nights a week, cinema fans can catch the latest Hollywood flicks, though it’s now rare to hear movie merits discussed up and down Main Street; in the old days, Faye remembers, The Guns of Navarone had people talking for six days after it screened.
Waimea Movie Theater