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Now Playing: Hawaii’s Most-Watched Hula Movie

Meet the people who brought you Hawaii’s Consolidated hula trailer. How this local favorite came to life; where the dancers are now.


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We tracked down as many of the stars of the Consolidated hula trailer as we could for a photo shoot at Ward Theatres, where audiences have seen the trailer so many times before. From left, they are hula dancers Healii Heine and Jackie Booth, producer Jon de Mello, creator Phil Shimmin, hula dancer Michael Casupang and Kalei Soon, daughter of the late hula dancer Arletta Johnson Soon.
Theater Photos: Olivier Koning

 Jon de Mello not only produced the trailer, he wrote the music and played all the instruments.   

One of the most popular movies in Hawaii runs for less than a minute, yet it has captured the imagination of Hawaii moviegoers for more than two decades. The movie is the “trailer” featuring solemn torch-bearing hula dancers that appears on the screens at Consolidated Theatres before every feature-length film. For the past 22 years, Consolidated has run the trailer “Hawaii” hundreds of times each day on its 94 screens. The film’s producer, Jon de Mello, believes it is the longest-running movie trailer ever made.  

Consolidated says more than a million people see it each year. 

“It’s the best part of going to the movies,” says Hawaii Kai resident Annette Kaohelaulii.

Andrea Jepson, a Lanikai resident, says, “The dancers are like old friends. When they appear on the screen, everyone settles back in their seats. It puts you in a familiar place. It’s lovely.”

Phil Shimmin was president of Consolidated Theatres when he commissioned the trailer in 1991 to celebrate Consolidated’s 75th year in Hawaii.

Shimmin, 72 years old now and retired, says he’s astonished by the trailer’s continuing popularity.

“It was never intended to run for so long. We expected to show it in the theaters for only a few years.”

Something came together—the original music, the hula dancers, the chant, the torches on the beach—that still resonates with audiences, who have come to expect the familiar scene to welcome them to the movies. Even those involved in making the film had no clue it would earn them a kind of cult following among moviegoers decades later. 

Steve Manke, who directed the trailer, says, “We knew it was good, but we didn’t know it was going to be forever.”

 

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