The Queen Theater sits stately and abandoned in the middle of Honolulu’s Kaimuki neighborhood. Having served as everything from a family movie palace to an adult film theater to a plumbing warehouse, it now anxiously awaits redevelopment.
Opened in 1936 the theater was named Queen to act as a companion to downtown Honolulu’s King Theater, as well as being a nod to Queen Liliuokalani, and Hawai’i’s royal history. Originally built in an Art Moderne style, the theater was then remodeled in the 1940s when its iconic neon marquee was added. During its life, the theater played host to mostly second run features and shorts, Saturday kids’ club matinees, and vaudeville shows in the heyday of neighborhood theaters.
The advent of television eventually drove down ticket sales and the Queen started playing host to things like interactive showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and underground punk rock concerts. In 1985, the theater was raided for promotion of pornography after it became an adult theater. After that, the space was leased by a plumbing company who were the last to officially inhabit the old building. Squatters have occupied the space on and off since then, sometimes with semiofficial permission by the elusive owner.
For years people have been interested in reviving the theater as an arts venue or some sort of social center for the community, but the owner has proven hard to get a hold of, so the property languishes in plain sight, with occasional rumblings of redevelopment, most recently in 2015, but no signs of forward motion have yet to be seen.
Know Before You Go
The theater is private property, but the slowly degrading exterior can be enjoyed from the street.