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Demolition begins on historic movie theater

Date Posted: 2006-12-01

A 55-year-old theater in downtown Naha City is now feeling the wrecker’s ball after decades of providing countless memories to movie buffs.

The Kokueikan movie theater on Kokusai Street served the Okinawa community for 51 years before closing its doors four years ago, pressured by growth of multiplex theaters in the Mihama area. The Kokueikan was the same design as Tokyo’s Hibiya movie theater, an ultra modern dome design in its heyday. In peak times, it was one of seven movie theaters on Kokusai Street, holding out until it was the only one before succumbing to financial woes in 2002.

Demolition is under way, a process expected to take a month. Hundreds of spectators have gathered to witness the building’s demise, which leaves only a single theater in the downtown area. Sakurazaka Hall Movie Theater, on Sakurazaka Street, struggles but is still in operation.

“We miss this movie theater,” one passer by said. “but there is no way to keep this theater anymore. We understand it has been standing for over 50 years, and has given a lot of memories to everyone over 30 years of age.”

The land beneath the Kokueikan theater is to be used for commercial facilities. Naha City is looking for public input December 3rd, on how to best use the land. The public hearing will be at Tembus Hall on Kokusai Street. City officials hope to begin new construction in the spring.

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