Want to See Your Name in Lights? The Historic Hawai‘i Theatre Can Do It


Proposal at Historic Hawai‘i Theatre

Mike Tom proposes to Teale Thornburg on the historic Hawai‘i Theatre. Photo: Wade Tonaki, courtesy of Mike Tom


Mike Tom fibbed to his girlfriend concerning the actual time of their dinner reservation, awkwardly steered her towards Bethel Street as an alternative of the restaurant, dropped to 1 knee, pulled out a hoop field and pointed as much as the marquee of the historic Hawai‘i Theatre to suggest.


“I had not written anything down. I just spoke from the heart and then I told her ‘look behind you.’” After Teale Thornburg noticed the proposal, smiled and stated sure, she is going to marry him, the marquee message modified to announce their excellent news to anybody passing by means of Downtown Honolulu that night time: “Teale and Mike Are Engaged! A Nerdy Love Story.”


Tom managed to suggest on the night time of the winter solstice, which for these two—followers of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, Marvel motion pictures—appeared additional particular. Tom and Thornburg dated for greater than three years, had talked about marriage and gone ring purchasing collectively.


Still, Tom admits not every part went exactly to plan for the proposal: “I ended up goofing up because I told my friends (looped in to take photos), ‘Oh, I’m gonna stand on this corner.’ And then I chose the wrong corner so they had to readjust.” While he’d made dinner reservations for Fête, he parked nearer to J. Dolan’s, which prompted questions from Thornburg.


Why nerdy? “Teale is very definitely a self-described band geek,” Tom explains. “I was also in band. We also love musicals, and we love the theater.” Both are medical doctors: He’s a geriatrician, she’s a veterinarian. Both grew up on O‘ahu, they play board video games, journey, and Tom has fond childhood reminiscences of the Hawai‘i International Film Festival: “I went with my family to go watch these international films at the Hawai‘i Theatre.”


Tom says the theater staffers made it straightforward to plan the marquee messages and that he and Thornburg are comfortable that the cash they donated goes to preserving the marquee for years to return. Hawai‘i Theatre Center President and CEO Gregory Dunn explains that the messages sprang from a $50,000 grant awarded to the middle to replace and restore the signal on the situation that the theater increase an identical quantity to help the challenge.


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Dunn says the signal was final upgraded in 1997, “and dozens of transformers that feed the neon bulbs the right level of voltage had failed causing the majority of the sign to no longer function.” Since the $50,000 got here at the beginning of the extended occasion shutdown initially of the pandemic in 2020, workers needed to get inventive in spreading the phrase about the necessity to increase matching funds. With no in-person reveals to function, sharing messages of hope, congratulations and celebration appeared preferrred, Dunn says.


Another cool tidbit Dunn shared concerning the marquee? “Walking under the neon sign when it’s on, you can hear the electricity as it excites the gas in the neon tubes,” which not solely heightens that sense of anticipation as you enter the theater, however offers that chicken-skin realization that it’s the identical sound your mother and father or grandparents heard after they went to the flicks within the Forties or ’50s.


While birthdays and anniversaries have been the preferred milestones marked on the marquee, Dunn says Tom’s wedding ceremony proposal was one of many sweetest messages they’ve seen. He says to count on extra messages because the theater continues to navigate the pandemic.


And for Tom and Thornburg, the marquee supplied a Hollywood second, with them within the highlight.


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How to Get Your Name on the Marquee

With a donation to Hawai‘i Theatre of $150, your message can seem on the marquee to rejoice a birthday, commencement, anniversary or different milestone. This is a brand new initiative spurred by the pandemic to assist keep the historic theater whereas offering a brand new strategy to rejoice milestones which were upended all through the group.


Here’s what it’s good to know:

●      Each message might be displayed for an hour at an agreed-upon time.

●      Theater workers asks for at the very least 48 hours’ discover to program the message and can present digital proofs for overview.

●      Messages might be proven in a historic type that represents the look of the boards in 1922, 1944 or 1996. (Tom selected the 1922 type.)

●      The theater offers specs and pointers: “Any message that contains profanity, is commercial, political or inflammatory in nature, or is otherwise contrary to Hawai‘i Theatre’s mission will be politely declined.”


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Photo: Wade Tonaki, courtesy of Mike Tom


Money raised goes to maintain the gorgeous marquee trying its greatest: repairing damaged neon tubes, changing lamps and every other wanted repairs to the message boards. And these donations fulfill a problem grant put ahead by the Historic Hawai‘i Foundation and the Freeman Foundation. Dunn says: “Without their support, the marquee would still be largely non-functioning.”


To schedule a message, contact Hawai‘i Theatre Development & Events Manager Avery Fukeda at


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