Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114

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Showing 51 - 75 of 141 comments

davidkaye on December 4, 2008 at 4:06 am

MARQUEE: My dim memory has the current Castro marquee (repainted for the Milk movie filming) to be a close approximation to what the marquee had in the 1970s. The marquee and the whole exterior were painted in various shades of beige for some unknown reason in the 1990s. It was so bad the name was barely visible during the daytime. Also, the neon appears to have been redone, spruced up, and animated (it now flashes) for the Milk movie filming.

CEILING: I remember the Castro both pre and post 1989 quake, and the thing I remember most about the “restoration” was that the ceiling looked like it had just a coat of shellac on it. Of course, given the time frame and expense it would have been impossible to re-paint the ornate ceiling image to restore it to what it originally was. Before the quake the ceiling had lost a lot of plaster, so much that it looked speckled white. It would have been a 6-month project just to repaint the ceiling imagery. I assume that the shellac was an easy way to cover over the white and leave as much of the rest of the image as they could do under the circumstances.

SEATING: My only argument with the current Castro experience is the wooden cup rings between the seats. Better that they could have been attached to the seat in front rather than between where it’s too easy to bump a cup with your elbow.

stevenj on December 1, 2008 at 7:12 pm

An AP story in today’s SF Chronicle says the Castro set a box office record for the opening 3 days of Milk. The film grossed $109,440 Nov 26-28 beating the previous 3 day record of $50,584 set in May for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

jackeboy on October 29, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Wow. I have never met an author who doesn’t care if he sells any books.It was the whole linking to the ad for your book thing that threw me off. I am sorry if I offended you, and I look forward to your postings on Cinema Treasures.

JackFritscher on October 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Jack Fritscher: My book “Gay San Francisco” featuring the Castro Theater as an icon on its cover is, yes, a trade paperback, but it is also the first GLBT book to be published simultaneously in a series of “free and green pdfs” at www JackFritscher com.

Now, in my eighth decade, I could care less if I sell a book; in fact, I am giving away free access to the entire text of “Gay San Francisco” to everyone at my site.

As a senior citizen who is an eyewitness to gay film history, my intent at this Cinema Treasures site is to join the online community and enhance Cinema Treasures' lore and history about the magic symbolism of theater marquees.

jackeboy on October 5, 2008 at 8:45 pm

Mr Fritscher… Are you planning on doing something nice for the people who run this sight? The reason I ask is that you seem to be using them to try and sell your book under the pretext of posting a picture of the Castro.

JackFritscher on October 5, 2008 at 8:08 pm

For a great photo of the Castro Theater shot in the 1990s, see the cover of the new book “Gay San Francisco” at Author Fritscher met his lover, and now legal spouse, under the marquee of the Castro Theater on May 22, 1978, the first night after the White Night Riot and the first birthday for Harvey Milk after his assassination by Dan White. Fritscher and spouse Hemry are specialists in reporting the untold Tales of the City in their 2008 book “Gay San Francisco.”

jackeboy on September 13, 2008 at 3:24 pm

They were both 35mm prints.

Giles on September 8, 2008 at 6:58 am

out of curiosity were the restored prints of Godfather I and II, 35mm or DLP?

jackeboy on September 6, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I went to the Castro twice this week. On Tuesday there was a 70mm showing of West Side Story. Towards the end of the movie, at a peak emotional moment, the film stops. It seems that one of the projectors had stripped a gear. With only one usable projector, they continued the showing, making reel changes on the one projector. A valiant effort by the Castro staff, but the wait between reel changes kind of ruined the showing for me. The manager was kind enough to give me a readmit ticket, which I used last night to see the restored prints of Godfathers 1 and 2. About 30 minutes into Godfather 2, there was a 4.0 earthquake. I have seen a bunch of strange things happen at this theatre. Like the double feature of 2 William Wellman films. Heroes For Sale was great, but they could not open the curtain,for the second feature, and had to cancel the showing of Wild Boys Of The Road. Or the showing of Vertigo where the sound went out halfway through the film. Or when I went to see Journey To The Center of the Earth and they could not get the masking adjusted for the film and had to cancel that showing. The Castro is a theatre with it’s own personality, and sometimes that personality can be a little cranky.

Giles on July 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm

what? no one wants to comment on the films at the 70mm fest? Other commitments preventing me from trekking cross country to attend this.

Giles on May 8, 2008 at 1:03 pm

what totally off the wall films for the 70mm Fest – oh it’s more enticing now.

Giles on May 5, 2008 at 8:29 pm

have the film’s for July’s 70mm film fest been announced yet?

jeanfilkins on May 1, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Looking forward to the John Barry tribute May 16 – 21!

jackeboy on April 13, 2008 at 7:57 pm

There was a showing of The Poseidon Adventure at the Castro a few years back, which was the event I mentioned in the above post. So while it might not have played as first run, it has been there at least once as a revival.

GaryParks on April 12, 2008 at 3:06 pm

The marquee had two subsequent color schemes after the 1970s colorful one so recently recreated:
—A late 70s or early 80s one which was light cocoa brown with white and dark blue accents (this is how it looked when I first photographed and attended movies there in 1984.
—A 1990s (?) very bland light tan, beige and white color scheme, recently consigned to blessed oblivion by the current colors.

jgilmore on April 9, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Nope, this marquee was put up especially for the filming of “Milk.” Odd that they chose Poseidon Adventure, as I don’t think it ever played the Castro first-run.

Question for all you Castro-ites: Anybody know why the drab looking stripes on the exterior were not re-painted red? And did the marquee fade into that drab color over the years, or was it actually painted that color after the 70’s ?

jackeboy on April 6, 2008 at 11:21 am

Actually this showing was a special event featuring a Q & A session with Carol Lynley. Ms.Lynley stayed at the hotel where I work and could not have been nicer.

kencmcintyre on April 6, 2008 at 9:50 am

I wonder if they were running that film in some kind of cross-promotion of the dismal remake that came out last year.

kencmcintyre on February 12, 2008 at 3:19 pm

I met John Waters in 1983 after a screening of “Pink Flamingos”. That was at the TLA Theater in Philadelphia. He’s an interesting guy.

gd14lawn on February 12, 2008 at 2:57 pm

I had the good fortune of attending a screening of “Pink Flamingos” at the Castro in 1989. It started my love affair woth both classic theaters and John Waters' movies!

jackeboy on January 7, 2008 at 4:50 pm

If you go the beautful Castro theatre be sure and dress warm. It is freezing. It is not as bad as it was last year, when I attended a showing of In Cold Blood in 4 layers of clothes, but it is still really cold.

HowardBHaas on January 3, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Gorgeous photos of the auditorium, 2006 by Ken Roe:
View link

terrywade on September 18, 2007 at 3:44 pm

It’s 70mm week at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. Just got back from the 70mm showing of Patton. Looked great on the big Castro screen. Not curved but still looked good with a great stereo. If you live near the SF area check out 70mm this week. Many are brand new 70mm prints. Some are blow ups from 35mm to 70mm. Sept 18 ‘Patton’ Sept 19/20 ‘Lord Jim’ Sept 21-‘Ghostbusters’/Lifeforce Sept 22/23-Lawrence Of Arabia Sept 24-Starman Sept 25/26-2001:A Space Odyssey Sept 27-Total Recall/Terminator 2:Judgement Day. Check these prints out at the Castro Theatre this week! The Castro is one of the few theatres in the SF Bay Area that can still run 70mm. Give them your support. And next year let’s bring in some of the 70mm roadshow music films. Yes the roadshow days are back this week only in San Francisco California. More info at for times.

SFLee on August 21, 2007 at 7:56 am

View link

David Hegarty keeps the art of the pipe organ alive at the Castro Theater

By Teresa Bergen

Musical trends change all the time. But decisions to dispense with a ukulele or add another guitar are nothing beside the tumultuous history of the theater organ. These huge instruments require space, installation and upkeep, as well as musical skills few people possess.

The Bay Area is lucky to have more than its share of pipe organs installed in theaters, as well as several gifted individuals who can play them, with the Castro Theater boasting one of the best organs in the country, and one of the few that is played every night.

David Hegarty, the Castro’s full-time organist, is remarkably modest and distinguished for a San Francisco celebrity. When asked about his local fame, he smiles discreetly and admits to often being recognized on the street. “It’s a unique position for an organist,” he says. “Even on the concert circuit you don’t play to this big an audience, usually.”

The Castro’s organ is played during intermission before the last two shows of the night. The theater organ, an adaptation of the classical organ, was created to replace pit orchestras and accompany silent movies. When talkies came, organs were relegated to intermissions. Their heyday was in the ‘20s, and by the '50s their popularity was on the wane, with most organs removed from theaters by the '60s.

Then a strange thing happened. In the ‘70s, certain pizza parlor owners decided theater organs were the perfect accompaniment to family dining, and pipe organs began their comeback.

The Castro Theater’s original organ was installed in 1922. But like most theaters, it joined the organ removal trend when old-time music went out of style. The Castro remained organless until the early ‘70s, when then-owner Mel Novakoff decided his traditional-style movie house needed a special touch. He rented an electronic organ and placed its speakers in the pipe chambers. This was the organ on which Hegarty began his 18-year (so far) gig at the Castro.

A few years later, around 1980, the Taylor family approached the Castro, seeking a home for their pipe organ. The Castro agreed to take it on, thus beginning a three-year remodeling adventure. The new organ was bigger than the original, so the pipe chambers had to be overhauled and a new room built to house the larger blowers. “The organ was restored to absolute pristine condition,” Hegarty said.

The console of the new organ was built in 1925, and was installed at the State (now Palms) Theatre in Detroit. The pipework was gathered from various Wurlitzers around the country. Like the Castro’s organ, Hegarty, too, is from Michigan. He began playing accordion at age 7, then organ at age 14. By the time he was 15 he was playing in churches. Hegarty has managed to turn his early interest into an astounding career. He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, and did doctoral studies in classical organ. Now he teaches workshops around the country on his Intro to Organ Playing method book, composes and publishes church music, and plays at the Castro almost every night, as well as performing in local churches and concert halls nationwide.

According to Hegarty, Jesse Crawford is the man who invented the theater organ style. “We all emulate him,” he said. “He played at the New York Paramount in the ‘20s.” Hegarty’s personal role model is radio and TV organist John Gart. “I emulate his style more than anyone else’s,” Hegarty said.

He got to know Gart in his old age, and inherited Gart’s whole library of original organ music. When Hegarty plays at the Castro, he tries to match his intermission selections with the movie. “In the case of musicals, it’s handed to you,” he said.

Hegarty tries to find some musical connection—theme music, songs in the mood of the movie, music from the era when the movie is set. “After you’ve played these for years, you begin to remember songs that showed up even incidentally in movies,” he said.

Hegarty has seen a lot of films, his favorite being Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, both for the picture and the soundtrack. Every performance ends with the Castro Theater’s theme song, “San Francisco.” “I don’t know how many thousands of times I’ve played that song in the last 18 years,” Hegarty says, smiling good-naturedly.