Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

Thousands of Oahu visitors and residents gathered in Waikiki earlier this month for what has become an eagerly anticipated yearly event: the red-carpet season premiere of the “Hawaii Five-0” TV series.

Most of the program’s stars appeared to watch the first episode at an outdoor screening on the beach, kicking off the sixth season as they have each previous year by greeting crowds of cheering fans and signing autographs as the sun set on Hawaii’s most popular visitor destination.

The sixth season’s opening episode won’t be broadcast on CBS until Sept. 25.

Donne Dawson, Hawaii’s state film commissioner, said the successful series’ run has not only added a great deal of stability to the Islands’ television and film industry, but it has also been a terrific boon for Aloha State tourism.

“It’s free, hugely valuable exposure for Hawaii’s visitors industry,” she said, noting that just 10 minutes of the hourlong program is worth “millions” of dollars in advertising.

“We couldn’t afford that kind of primetime advertising if we were to purchase it outright,” she said. “It’s just an incredible benefit to the state.”

“Hawaii Five-0” averaged just under 9.5 million viewers an episode during its last season, totals that were down some from the year before, but that’s still a lot of potential visitors enjoying stories told with some of the Aloha State’s most stunning natural beauty serving as a backdrop. And Dawson added that the show’s fans are traveling to Hawaii to see for themselves where their favorite scenes were shot, from the original series that aired from 1968 to 1980 as well as from the remake.

“Audiences in this day and age want to come and visit where famous films and TV shows are made,” she said. “And people definitely come here looking to visit places where they saw the original and the new Steve McGarrett hanging out.”

Kelly Sanders, area managing director for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Waikiki, said the series showcases the Islands like no other program on network television today. And it sounds like that’s been good for business. 

“The scenic shots around the Islands and at our Starwood Waikiki properties have helped keep the demand extremely high for Waikiki over the last several years,” Sanders said of the show’s influence.

In fact, the primetime exposure the TV program provides is valuable enough that Starwood Hawaii recently renewed an agreement with “Hawaii Five-0” to serve as an official production partner, an arrangement that means oceanfront Waikiki hotel properties like the Royal Hawaiian, the Moana Surfrider and the Sheraton Waikiki are likely to be featured prominently again in the crime drama’s episodes this season. Sanders also reported that guests seem to have really enjoyed seeing the “Hawaii Five-0” cast and crew filming at Starwood Waikiki properties in the past.

“Seeing a little bit of Hollywood during their stay at Starwood Waikiki helps create indelible memories for our guests to take home with them and share with their family and friends,” he said. 

Last year, the three hotels provided shoot locations on several occasions, including the Sheraton Waikiki’s RumFire bar venue and the ocean lawn at the Royal Hawaiian, where Frankie Valli and Carol Burnett starred in a wedding scene. 

Through Nov. 25, the Starwood Hawaii is running a 5-night minimum stay special, titled the “Hawaii Five-0 Stay and Play Package,” for oceanview rooms at its Waikiki properties that also features a $50 resort credit. For more details, visit www.onlyinwaikiki.com.

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