Saturday, June 25, 2022

Save the Historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco

The Castro Theatre is well-known even to those of us who aren't from the Bay Area or have spent significant time in San Francisco. The theatre was founded by the Nasser Brothers, who had begun showing movies at their father's grocery and candy factory and later a small, 600 seat theatre. The architect who designed the Castro Theatre, Timothy L. Plueger, would also design the  the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company Building in San Francisco. He would also design other theatres, including the Alhambra and El Rey in San Francisco and the Paramount in Okalnd  Its opening on June 22 1922 was attended by then San Francisco mayor Sunny Jim Rolph. The first film shown at the Castro Theatre was Across the Continent (1922), starring Wallace Reid.

The Castro Theatre was operated by the Nasser family until 1976, at which point they leased the theatre to San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff. After that lease ended, the Castro Theatre shifted to showing repertory movies and hosting film festivals. Among the festivals it has hosted are the Berlin & Beyond Festival, CAAMFest, the San Francisco Film Noir Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and others.

Unfortunately, it was earlier this year that Another Planet Entertainment partnered with the Castro Theatre's current owner, Bay Properties. Another Planet Entertainment plans to level the theatre's floor (taking away its slope) and removing seats for rock concerts. As connoisseurs of classic theatres know, removing the slope and removing seats would ruin the Castro Theatre's effectiveness as a movie theatre. The Castro Theatre Conservancy has then been formed in order to retain as much of the interior of the Castro Theatre as possible. Among its supporters are such big names as Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Danay Delaney, David Byrne, Leonard Maltin, and yet others.

The Castro Theatre Conservancy has set up a petition on "to ensure that the historic orchestra seating and sloped floor that are so essential to preserving the filmgoing experience are maintained." If you love beautiful old movie palaces, by all means sign this petition.

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