‘KULEANA’ Perseveres in Spite of Battle at Box Office

Listen to this Article
3 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

The award-winning film KULEANA is in its fourth week showing on Regal Cinema’s island screens, including Keauhou Stadium 10 in Kona, Pearl Highlands on O‘ahu and Maui Mall Megaplex in Kahului.

Despite being the first Hawai‘i feature in almost a decade to make it to the big screen statewide, KULEANA has proven itself a mainstream competitor to other Hollywood blockbuster films currently in theaters.

“We opened head to head agains Steven Spielberg’s goliath READY PLAYER ONE in 10 theaters, when Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER was setting global box office records and Peter Jackson’s PACIFIC RIM sequel was in fifth gear,” shared KULEANA writer/director Brian Kohne. “Then came more competition in a breakout comedy, BLOCKERS, and a surprise horror hit, A QUIET PLACE, which gave KULEANA a good rub. Hawai‘i’s The Rock [Dwayne Johnson] and his lovable CGI ape came along last Friday in RAMPAGE to tag-team us—and that seems to be the prime factor that’s diminished our screen count heading into this weekend.

“It’s certainly not because islanders are not getting behind KULEANA; our people truly are showing up for the home team—many for repeat screenings” Kohne continued. “Next week, Robert Downey Jr, The Hulk, and the spandex-clad crew of the AVENGERS may serve KULEANA a final theatrical battle—but not if Hawai‘i decides it truly wants a movie of its own, KULEANA, to remain available to them on screens. When it comes to box office, the people can decide the fate of a movie such as ours…”

Produced entirely in Hawai‘i, KULEANA received a number of film festival awards all over the world in 2017, and screenings on the mainland are underway. Audiences in Sacramento and Las Vegas and a number of other cities have experienced the movie in their local theaters in recent weeks.


Cast and crew are now setting their sites on Saturday, May 5, when KULEANA will be featured as a special presentation in the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival for its LA premiere. The screening will take place downtown in the Tateuchi Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum, with cultural entertainment and a reception to follow. And if that were not enough, the Los Angles Mayor’s Office will present KULEANA with a resolution honoring the production for its authentic casting of Asians and Polynesians in featured roles. Kohne and Actor/Executive Producer Branscombe Richmond will represent the picture.

“As a Polynesian and a Native American born in LA and living in Hawai‘i, I dream of the day when productions like KULEANA are no longer the exception with respect to diversity in casting and rich, cultural storytelling,” related Richmond. “The industry evolves one picture at a time, driven by market forces, as audiences demand to experience the world they actually live in accurately represented onscreen. The fact that the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles recognizes and values the courage and strength of Hawai‘i islanders to reclaim their own narrative is at once encouraging, as it is humbling. Mahalo, ke Akua and the proud city of Los Angeles.”

“Kuleana” is the Hawaiian word for spiritual responsibility. In KULEANA, set in Hawai‘i in 1971, a disabled Vietnam vet rediscovers the Hawaiian warrior within to protect his family, defend their land, and clear his father’s name.

The provocative new mystery/drama was produced by Stefan Schaefer, and stars Moronai Kanekoa, Sonya Balmores (Marvel’s INHUMANS), Kristina Anapau (TRUE BLOOD), Augie T, Marlene Sai, Branscombe Richmond (CHICAGO MED) and Mel Cabang. Willie K and Johnny Wilson provide an original score; the soundtrack boasts hit songs by Joni Mitchell, Procol Harum, and Tony Orlando and Dawn, with Hawaiian classics of the era by Genoa Keawe, Lena Machado, Sunday Manoa, Sons of Hawaii, Marlene Sai and more.


Boasting high production values in picture, performances and music, KULEANA earned the faith of mainland theater giants Reading International (Consolidated) and Regal Entertainment Group, which in March opened the movie in 10 theaters in Hawai‘i and Guam.

The film received an MPAA PG-13 rating, and also holds a spot on popular movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Visit the Facebook Events feed for a full listing of upcoming mainland screenings.

Mainland residents can sign up to host/attend a screening in their city at www.hawaiicinema.com via Gathr, a technology-based Theatrical On Demand service.


Keauhou Shopping Center is located at 78-6831 Ali‘i Drive, H-24.

For more information, go online.

*Pacific Media Group, Big Island Now’s parent company, is a shareholder in the film KULEANA.

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments