Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114

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Castro Theatre

The Castro Theatre, situated at the corner of Castro Street and Market Street, is one of San Francisco’s most recognizable landmarks. This magnificent neighborhood theatre is decorated in the Spanish Renaissance style; with a Moorish Tent ceiling, Oriental Zodiac emblems, and Art Deco touches throughout. It was built by the Nasser Brothers and became the flagship theatre of their small circuit of neighborhood theatres. It was the first theatre to be designed by architect Timothy L. Pflueger.

Opened June 22, 1922 with Wallace Reid in “Across the Continent”. Waldemar Lind and the New Castro Orchestra and Carmichael at the Robert Morton pipe organ accompanied the movie. In 1937 a small fire damaged the auditorium, and Timothy L. Pflueger was brought back to redesign some damaged sections and design a new Art Deco style chandelier in the center of the auditorium celing. In 1950 the organ was replaced by a Conn organ, which, in around 1980 was replaced by a larger 3 manual 16 ranks Wurlitzer organ, the console of which was originally installed in 1925 in the the State (now Palms) Theatre, Detroit, MI. In recent years the Castro Theatre has hosted several premiers including in 1984 “The Times of Harvey Milk”, in 1985 the world premiere of “Buddies”, and in 2008 the world premiere of “Milk” which also featured the theatre in the movie. The Wurlitzer organ was removed from the theatre at the end of September 2015 and will be replaced by a 7 manual pipe/digital organ.

The theatre is still going strong in the country’s best known gay neighborhood. Playing films from across the spectrum of independent film, the Castro Theatre is one of the last picture palaces left in the San Francisco area.

In 1976 the Castro Theatre was designated San Francisco city landmark #100.

Contributed by Tom Rielly, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 162 comments)

stevenj on January 19, 2022 at 1:51 pm

another article here on Another Planet taking over operating the Castro at sfist:


m00se1111 on January 19, 2022 at 2:05 pm

Steven Bracco at Hoodline provides more info here

APE claims that there will be a ‘celebration that is suitable for such an iconic venue’ when it comes to the Castro Theatre’s 100th birthday in June. Also the Frameline film festival will be taking place.

m00se1111 on January 19, 2022 at 2:09 pm

and the noon news on KPIX

terrywade on January 20, 2022 at 10:52 am

The 35mm/70mm projectors at SF’s Castro Theatre will not be used much now that a deal has been signed for ‘Another Planet Entertainment’ to take over the management and booking at this famous SF movie palace. The Nasser family will still own the building. The Nasser’s are mainly under ‘Bay Properties’ in the real estate business. Look what they have done to the Royal Theatre on Polk St, turned the cinema property into condos same with the Alhambra Theatre on Polk ST now a gym. At least the Nasser family won’t be knocking the Castro Theatre down for apartments or condos in the Castro area. The ‘Planet’ people say they will remodel the theatre with added lobby and stage space? The only way they can enlarge the small lobby is to turn the rental stores out front to new drink bar set up spaces inside. That’s how they can afford to pay for all the long delayed fix up work by charging inflated money for booze. The same with the very small backstage, I don’t think they will spend the money knocking down the back wall parking lot and extending the stage for live events. Planet will probably put in a thrust stage and take out 8 rows of seats or maybe take out all the seats downstairs like they have done at the Fox Oakland Theatre they book in Oakland CA. The old bathrooms downstairs need a major up grade. Forget the days of paying $9 to see a classic movie or double bill in 35mm film on the giant Castro screen. Be ready to come up with big bucks to sit or stand for a live show. They say they will still show some movies but this never happened at the Fox Oakland. Planet says they will up grade the neon marquee but I bet this will be a junky LED video screen that will flash and glare all over Castro St. No more plastic marquee letters. A new sound system is also planned but I don’t think It will be a nice surround Dolby Atmos® or Meyers® system for movies. They will probably hang ugly rock/music speakers on the side stage ceiling like at the Fox Oakland? Forget the days of seeing a double bill, going to a matinee, the smell of fresh popcorn in the lobby and hearing a live pipe organ pre show before the noisy gold curtains opened. Thanks to the Nasser family for holding on as long as they could in keeping some sort of showmanship at their famous SF movie theatre. Looks like the Drafthouse ‘New Mission Theatre’ in SF not far away still shows 35mm/70mm films in the larger downstairs auditorium with curtains with my friend ‘Jim’ as a live projectionist on duty. They don’t have all the seats as the Castro has but a least they may get some film festivals or show classic movies on film or DCP video. We hope ‘Another Planet’ still keeps as promised the new giant pipe/electric organ that was to go in and many people donated money for? We wish the new managers well and hope they can bring back all the color lights that once lit up the inside along with other up grades, time will tell. We will miss seeing movies all the time at the Castro Theatre.

Mikeoaklandpark on January 20, 2022 at 1:32 pm

Replacing the marquee is unthinkable.

m00se1111 on January 20, 2022 at 2:08 pm

David Hegarty took to the Castro Theater’s Facebook page to inform that the plans for the new organ are still going forward. Programming will be a mixture of film and live events.

HowardBHaas on January 20, 2022 at 2:41 pm

At least one article says “rehabbing the marquee” Many now have electronic signage on the marquee rather than just letters.

SchineHistorian on January 20, 2022 at 9:22 pm

So many fine memories over the years at the Silent Film Festival. At least I got to fully enjoy it as a premiere film venue. Will always fondly recall what SF and the Castro used to be.

m00se1111 on January 21, 2022 at 3:51 am

Circling back to Howard’s comment. The marquee is not going to be ‘ changed’, it’s getting the necessary rehab that it needs. Many of the trucks making deliveries on Castro Street have run into it. So part of the renovation will be bringing the marquee to it’s former glory. One can imagine that will be in place by June.

The last time I went to the Castro in 2018, double feature pricing was $12.

stevenj on January 22, 2022 at 8:34 am

“Castro Theatre will still show movies, new operator Another Planet assures distraught film fanatics”.

“People are making assumptions that are unfounded,” he (Greg Perloff, CEO and founder of Another Planet) said on Thursday, Jan. 20. “What we have talked about is doing a little of everything. The intention is to have film and film festivals, along with music and comedy and lectures. Ultimately, the public will tell us what they want to see.”

Here is G. Allen Johnson’s SF Chronicle article on the changes coming to the Castro and the importance of the Castro Theater to film lovers and film makers as a special place for cinema.


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