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Another Planet Entertainment announces town hall meeting on controversial changes to historic Castro Theatre

Another Planet Entertainment announces town hall meeting on controversial changes to historic Castro Theatre
Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
By Steven Bracco - Published on July 20, 2022.

On Tuesday, Another Planet Entertainment (APE) announced it will be hosting a town hall meeting about the upcoming changes to the historic 100-year-old Castro Theatre. The in-person town hall meeting will take place on Thursday, August 11 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m at the Castro Theatre. The event is free to the public.

Representatives from APE and the Nasser family, owners of the theatre, are expected to be in attendance. The meeting will start with a presentation by APE representatives.

A question-and-answer session moderated by BART director and former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty will immediately follow the presentation. Dufty is currently a paid community outreach consultant for APE.


Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

"We will discuss the current conditions of the Castro Theatre and the repairs we have already made since January," APE spokesperson David Perry told Hoodline. "Plus, our preservation plans and plans to modernize the mechanical and electrical infrastructure including ADA access."

"And, of course we will discuss our ongoing diverse programming and events of special importance to the film and LGBTQ communities," added Perry.

When asked if APE planned to broadcast the meeting online for anyone who cannot attend Perry said, "At the moment, there are no plans for a virtual component."

While APE has presented at a handful of private meetings with community groups like the Castro Merchants and at a May closed-door meeting with District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, next month's meeting will be the first public meeting.

Earlier this year it was announced that Another Planet Entertainment would be taking over the programming and overhauling the theatre, while ownership remains with the Nasser family and Bay Properties Inc.

Proposed renovations include removing the orchestra-level seats and replacing them with four tiered sections of platforms with removable seats; removing the lobby-area concession stand; expanding the women's restroom; improving the ventilation and electrical systems; adding a ground-floor dressing room; and possibly adding an elevator with access from the lobby level up to the second floor.

Proposed standing room floor plan. | Image: Page-Turnbull/SF Planning

 

Neighborhood residents and groups including the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District continue to have questions and concerns about the future of the historic theater. Earlier this year, Greg Perloff, APE CEO and co-founder, addressed some of those concerns in an interview with Hoodline. [Full disclosure: Steven Bracco, Hoodline's Castro reporter, is a board member of the CQCD and member of the Castro Theatre Stakeholders Coalition.]

"I feel encouraged to learn that APE wishes to finally receive community feedback about its renovation plans," said CQCD District Director Tina Aguirre. "I also acknowledge that it’s disappointing that we learned of this via the media instead of from direct communication from APE."

Oakland-based Neon Works have already begun improvements to the theatre, including repainting the Castro Theatre marquee and restoring the neon lights. Restoration work on the vertical blade will begin soon.

Last month APE applied for a conditional use permit with the SF Planning Department for a change of use at the Castro Theatre. APE has proposed formalizing the theatre's historic nighttime entertainment and bar uses. 


Restoration work on the Castro Theatre marquee taking place in May. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

In May, District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman proposed expanding the landmark designation for the theatre, which would include the existing, orchestra-style seating.

Last month, the Castro Theatre Conservancy was formed specifically to thwart plans by APE to remake the interior of the historic Castro Theatre to be more conducive to live music events — and specifically the group wants to stop a plan to remove all the seats from the theater's main level.

 

Update 5:30 p.m.:

After publishing, APE spokesperson David Perry sent over a prepared statement from the Nasser family in support of APE's proposed changes and challenged the opposition from neighborhood groups like the Castro Theatre Conservancy.

Hoodline is publishing the full, unedited statement from the Nasser and Nasser-Padian Families below:

The Castro Theatre has adapted and undergone many changes during the last 100 years. The Theatre first opened on June 22, 1922 with the showing of a silent film. That evening the orchestra pit was full and admission was ten cents a ticket. Since that June night the orchestra musicians were replaced by a sound system in the 1930s, the mezzanine fireplace was removed, a new marquee was introduced, the famous neon blade sign was added, the Art Deco chandelier was installed, new seats arrived in 2001 and the stage was expanded to allow for more diverse live programming. These changes allowed the Theatre to stay
current and allowed all of us to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

The Castro Theatre has presented film for 100 years and will continue to present film. Film alone has not sustained the Theatre for some time and the theatre has been struggling when just showing film since the 1970s. This was unfortunately represented in the 10 days of the 100th anniversary when the 1,400 seat Theatre had on average attendance of less than 100 per showing. Because of the low attendance for film and the theatre's inability to financially sustain itself in its current form, we entered into an agreement with Another Planet Entertainment (APE) to help restore and modernize the theatre, enhance programming and address years of deferred maintenance. We formed this agreement with a tremendous amount of thought and care to ensure that we found the best group to be the stewards of the theatre. We know that APE will be able to revive the theatre, preserve its legacy and continue important programming to the LGBTQ+ and film communities. We fully support the proposed changes by APE that allow the theatre to have versatile programming and upgraded seat configurations which will hopefully help stave off the fate of so many other theaters of this era that have closed, been developed into other occupancies or converted to retail shops.

Recently, groups have come forward that claim an affiliation with the Castro Theatre or propose changes that they think are best. While we appreciate their love for the theatre we strongly disagree and oppose the wildly restrictive guidelines that groups such as the Castro Theatre Conservancy are trying to impose. Their approach, while well intentioned, is extremely misguided and will further restrict and limit the diverse programming needed for the theatre to remain operational. Surprisingly, many of these groups who claim to know what's best for the theatre failed to participate in or support the recent 100th anniversary events.

The Castro Theatre is the longest continually family-owned movie palace in the United States, and we have every intention of staying open for another 100 years. We would like to say Thank you for your continued support over the last 100 years as we endeavor for 100 more!