Iao Theatre

68 N. Market Street,
Wailuku, HI 96793

Unfavorite 3 people favorited this theater

Showing 7 comments

50sSNIPES on July 27, 2023 at 8:33 am

On October 5, 1961, the Iao Theatre also hosted the world premiere of Frank Sinatra’s “The Devil At 4 O'clock”.

Throughout the late-1960s and much of the 1970s, the Iao suffered from lack of use and maintenance.

On December 27, 1974, five people were injured after a dispute over a damaged motorcycle parked next to the Iao Theatre turned into a shooting. One of the victims was a Maui teen who was shot in the knee, and another victim was an officer for the Maui Police Department. Police said that a small-caliber pistol was fired during the melee and was recovered to the station for questioning.

The Iao Theatre became statewide headlines throughout much of mid-1978 following a major raid over the theater running “Deep Throat” on August 15, 1978. Theater co-owners 26-year-old Robert MacKenzie and 29-year-old Ran Bir Khalsea (both from Kihei who lived on the same street at the time) were arrested by the MPD following warrants charging them with a single count of promotion of pornography. A short time later, 32-year-old Francis Katrus of Kihei was arrested with the same charge. Shortly after their arrest, all three were released on bail with $50 each. The affidavit said that back on August 10, 1978, five days before the raid, Deputy Police Chief Joseph Cravalho had assigned a sergeant to investigate the film at the Iao. He paid a total of $3 and watched the film, and shortly afterward, a search warrant was issued and the theater was raided. This is not the first time Hawaii witnessed an incident like this, but it was the Aquaris Theater in Honolulu who started a similar incident two months prior for the seizure of both “Deep Throat” and “Behind The Green Door” where search warrants were found after test-screening by the Honolulu Police Department. At the time, the manager at the King Theater in Wailuku said that he stopped running X-rated films for really good reasons several weeks prior when he heard that they might be raided. At the time, the Iao has shown 6 X-rated films since both Khalsa and MacKenzie both bought the theater in 1977.

A couple of months later, “Tokyo Throat” and “Loincloth Geisha” were shown at the nearby King Theatre. The two films were advertised at the theater by posters featuring toplessness. The Maui Police Department reviewed two more films that were played there but found out that they were not mature enough at all according to Maui County Prosecutor Boyd Mossman on October 25, 1978. Unlike its previous incident, Mossman said that the films themselves were “nothing like “Deep Throat” in that there were no explicit scenes of sexual activity”. He expects Maui officers prepare to check listings across Maui.

Unfortunately, the raid of “Deep Throat” caused the Iao Theatre to close as a longtime movie house due to concerns. The nearby King Theatre located a block away from the Iao Theater managed to continue running movies until it suffered damaged from a storm on January 8, 1980.

On August 9, 1979, it was announced that the Iao Theater will be converting into a $1M project as both an boutique and office complex known as the Iao Square, housing up to 26 tenants led by Victor K.B. Young of Honolulu but it never happened at the theater site. The Iao Theatre building sat vacant for years until it reopened as a special events and live performance house during the weekend of June 23, 1984. Some movies would later present as special showings.

StephanieO on February 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Aloha Iao Theatre fans,
The historic Iao will celebrate its' 80th anniversary this March, 2009. I will update you all on the events planned for the grand dame of Maui…
Stephanie Ohigashi
PS. Please tell David…thanks.

LowellAngell on June 2, 2008 at 2:47 am

I’d like to correct the comment above that the Iao was "patterned after the Princess Theatre in Honolulu." There is actually no similarity between the two apart from the fact that both were "stadium style" houses. I spent a great deal of time in the Princess in the '60s with the organ (which we removed just shortly before the theatre was demolished in 1969 and reinstalled in the Hawaii Theatre two blocks away) and also wrote a history of the Princess. The theatre that WAS patterned after the Princess is the PALACE in Hilo, which in fact was designed by the two surviving architects of the Princess, Davis and Fishbourne. It is nearly identical in plan and very similar in decor, only on a much smaller scale. (The Princess was the 2nd largest theatre in Hawaii at 1650 seats.) There were actually five theatres in Wailuku at one time, and many more on the rest of the island in the 20s and 30s. TheIao is the only one left; it’s great that it survived!

HowardBHaas on January 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm

At rental info, the website has 3 photos including auditorium facing stage.

al2006 on June 2, 2006 at 3:04 pm

Chuck, check the Iao Theater link I just added.

gaylord69 on February 1, 2006 at 9:46 pm

I was in Hawaii on R & R in July 1969 I went to the movie and saw The Aoril Fools could this be the theater?