HONOLULU (KHON2) — Tihati Productions has been entertaining Hawaii for over 50 years.
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“People come here, quite frankly, to see Hawaii, the sun and the surf, but also to get a little bit of culture and history,” said Afatia Thompson, co-owner of Tihati Productions.
The company became known for its entertaining lu’au over the years but the owners say the shows are much more than that.
“We get to do it in a way that is entertaining, culturally appropriate and authentic,” Thompson explained about what makes his lu’au so special.
Authenticity has been the driving factor behind the family business for over 50 years. Afatia Thompson and Misty Tufono’s parents started the company in 1969.
“They were just two young kids right out of high school. Proud products of Farrington High School and they had a passion for entertaining, and a passion for telling mo’olelo of our people,” Thompson explained about how the business got started.
Afatia and Misty grew up around the stage. Performing is in their blood, after all.
“It was get your homework done in the dressing room, you know, under the dressing spots, and then grab some dinner from the buffet,” Tufono said about what her childhood was like.
Fast forward to 2021 and Tihati Productions is the largest entertainment company in Hawaii.
It was putting on 56 shows per week across Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island prior to the pandemic.
“You could hear it from the road, you could hear from the beaches. By the time the fire knife dancer got up, I mean there was a crowd there, there was a crowd here,” Tufono said, describing what a typical night at one of their luau was like.
That all changed when COVID-19 hit the islands.
“At the time of the shutdown, we were about 463 employees, and over 500 independent contractors so when Afa speaks of those 56 shows a week that went to zero, that’s hundreds of musicians, artists, drummers, technicians, warehousemen that just went silent,” Tufono said about how the pandemic has impacted their income and employees.
Business dried up completely for Tihati Productions for nearly 10 months. The family business had zero income coming in to pay the bills.
“We have warehouses. We have offices. Offices on every island that we have shows at,” Thompson said about the bills they still had to pay despite all their shows being put on pause.
The past year has been brutal for Tihati Productions but it is holding on.
“Our plan is to come back with a vengeance and put on the very best shows and entertainment possible,” Thompson said.
Afatia and Misty said, they are finally starting to feel hopeful. They reopened four shows in November, 2020, with three of them on Maui and one on the Big Island.
“We’ve been operating since November and in collaboration with the hotels, we’ve had no incidents, and I think that shows that if we’re all responsible and we work together, we’re capable of safely reopening in a responsible manner and everyone can get back to work,” Tufono said.
Tihati Productions is planning on reopening shows on Oahu in the near future. Click here to purchase tickets.