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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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Dancer Michael Nalanakilaekolu Casupang says the long day’s work gave him a genuine appreciation for what goes into making a movie.

Casupang, now 50 years old, teaches dance at Mid-Pacific Institute and is the co-founder with Karl Veto Baker of Halau I Ka Wekiu, which was overall winner of the Merrie Monarch Hula Festival in 2007 and 2012.

Casupang says the dancers in the trailer each received a one-time payment of $300.

“If we were paid a penny for every time it has been shown, we all would have retired long ago,” says Casupang.

Casupang is one of the dancers shown holding his finger above his lips in the film. Movie audiences think the dancers are telling them to be quiet when they see them pointing their fingers below their noses but Casupang says they are actually making the classic hula motion known as “ala,” which means fragrance. Hula dancers use the ala motion to tell of the fragrance of a flower such as pikake or maile.

Another thing that isn’t quite what it seems in the film is the big rock the camera pans to at the end, with Consolidated’s logo carved on it like a petroglyph. The “rock” is really a large lump of foam carved and painted by Bryan Furer, who was the makeup artist for the dancers.

The only dancer who no longer lives in Hawaii is Keola Kamahele. Kamahele, now 51 years old, resides in Salt Lake City with his wife and two children. He has worked in mortgage financing since the late 1980s. When I called Kamahele on the Mainland, he was astounded to hear the trailer was still running. “Oh my god,” he said. “I guess that has a lot to say about how carefully it was done. I am glad it is still there.”

Kamahele says the first time he saw it on the big screen, “I was blown away by how masterful it was. It made me proud to be a hula dancer, proud to be Hawaiian, proud to be from the state of Hawaii.”

Reading International Inc. of Commerce, Calif., purchased Consolidated Theatres in 2008. Rod Tengan, regional manager for Consolidated, says the Mainland parent company has no plans to change the trailer, and will continue to show it before every movie.

“For as long as the trailer has been running, the overwhelming response continues to be favorable,” says Tengan. Shimmin says he knew it was a hit from the very beginning when he sat in the back row of the former Waikiki Theatre, to gauge the audience’s reaction. At first, he says, people murmured and whispered as if they were wondering, “Wow. What’s this?” But when the trailer finished, two or three people started to clap hesitantly and then everyone burst into loud, steady applause. “I think I am more proud of this than anything I have done in my life,” he says.

De Mello says people still stop him on the street to talk about it. He says every time he pulls up at the Kahala Resort to have his car parked, the tall Hawaiian bellman tells him, “Oh, I love that movie. I cry every time I see it.” 

An early version of this story first appeared on Honolulu Civil Beat.

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Honolulu Magazine March 2020
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