Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114

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Showing 51 - 75 of 137 comments

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.

terrywade on August 15, 2007 at 4:11 pm

Thanks Simon for your great report. I seem to remember the story of the paint junk the Blumenfields put on the front and it flooding the marquee. One of these days I hope someone will come along and paint the front of the Castro and the Marquee. The stale light color it is now doesn’t show off the front like the Castro needs. Bring on the greens, oranges, red, yellow and pink. Make it look like a art deco Miami Theatre in San Francisco. I think they have a law in SF, no flashing neon. Seems the front did flash neon at one time? Now the inside, have you ever been to the Stanford Theatre in Palo Alto CA. check out the dark blue lights up in the ceiling during a film showing. This is what the Castro needs. Also on the bottom of the curtain a small border light tray, with a variety of color you can change per movie theme. I remember as a kid going to all the Golden State Theatres in California when they closed the curtain between previews and the main feature they had a dark blue/red light on the curtains as they moved, some of this light went on the bottom of the screen, it was the best in showmanship. Next time I see the Nassers I will talk to them again about adding some color inside. Maybe when no one is watching we can change some bulbs if they don’t!

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on August 14, 2007 at 10:06 pm

Hi Terry… your “lighting” comments are so true in every aspect and YES, blue lamps should be used during screening times. Lighting in theaters is so very important. READ ON…

When I was co-doorman with the infamous Jim Lewallen from 1994-2001, I was part of a crew who replaced ALL of the multi-colored bulbs in the massive chandelier. This was a huge task resulting in a two-hour lowering session. We found various old and dated notes from earlier employees who had performed this exciting task and I added my name!

We often experienced electrical shorting-out problems with the original footlights because of the huge overload of pink/red -mostly 45watt floods. So I was asked to work all night until noon the next day by disconnecting the system and boxing them in to never be used again. I wonder how many stars and curtain calls they had seen?

I also replaced the rotten lower masking (rags) with 24" high black painted plywood and was later asked to (reluctantly) board-over the oh-so beautiful original Parquet tiled stage with ugly black painted plywood.

Another Castro lighting project I personally triumphed, over was the completely forgotten lights framing the interior of the great arched window of the facade;
Entry was gained from the projection booth. I carried a large sack of new 60watt yellow bulbs and literally crawled up and over the 24" clearance between the wall and the towering window. Gingerly removing each burned out lamp they fell to their “death” at the base of the window, joining hundreds from the past years.

I also noticed small screw-in clips with wire and remnants of what looked like broken Neon tubing. These were located up, down and across the wooden square frames of the numerous small glass windows.
Owner, Ted Nasser, exclaimed to me that he had forgotten about this yellow illumination and had not seen it since his youth.

On a “wet” note; I was urgently called to the Castro one rainy night after the theater had been repainted. The drain plug in the marquee was blocked from a slew of trash and old scraped-off paint.
The irreplaceable framed structure had begun to seriously bow under the tremendous weight of the rain water and would nhave collapsed onto the sidewalk.
After “snaking” the badly clogged drain, water shot out of the sidewalk exit pipe like a Geyser gone crazy.

Ah the happy times memories associated with such a fabulous theater!

terrywade on August 14, 2007 at 7:17 pm

What a great time this past weekend at the Castro for the 85th anniversary. I have met with both Nasser brothers many times in the past year and have told them about having some color added to the indoor lights. I even offered to by the blue, green and red bulbs. Didn’t hear a word. The whole place is lit up in the main theatre with gold and yellow lights on the curtains. The bulbs under the balcony lights need to be blue during the movie. Most are not working. The best place for some dark blue/red bulbs is on either side of the stage on the bottom of the organ loft curtains during a film showing. They have speakers blocking the side curtains. I wait for the day when the main big light on the ceiling can be re lit. Blue during the film on low with the intermission setting green, yellow and orange red combo. The same in the lobby, the candy counter is so dark I don’t see how the help can make change. More ceiling lights need to be added above the consession stand. And the two big art deco lights in the lobby in place of boring white lights (always turned way to low) replace with some color lights. In the summer put in Blue on the bottom row Green on the next then Yellow on the top. In the winter put in Red on the bottom Orange on the next row top off with Yellow. These lights need to turned up, they are way to low now. The Nassers told me last year they are about to re do the electric in the theatre. Many times I have gone In and found the main theatre in the dark. Someone had to do something with the fuse box? Let’t bring back some color at the Castro. With the new seats, great projection, Dolby Digital and 70mm this is a first class house. Thanks to Bill Longen for helping get this great San Francisco theatre back on track. When he brought back a 70mm print of It’s A Mad Mad World last year he made special masking for the big screen so it fit. This is real showmanship!

AdoraKiaOra on August 13, 2007 at 3:56 pm

You lucky, lucky people!