Castro Theatre

429 Castro Street,
San Francisco, CA 94114

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Castro Auditorium just before SFIFF screening of The Third Man on 28 April 2012

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 143 comments)

stevenj
stevenj on November 9, 2015 at 12:13 am

I’ve added 4 new photos – 3 exteriors showing the wider sidewalks and tile work in front of the theater and a long shot taken from an apartment balcony on Twin Peaks showing the bulk of the theater from above.

stevenj
stevenj on September 5, 2016 at 5:56 pm

Just picked up a schedule a few days ago – Lawrence of Arabia will be shown in 70mm Oct 1 and 2, Vertigo in 70mm Oct 14, 15, 16. Would love to see the Transparent event but will be out of town that week. Most of the cast will be in attendance. They are showing the first 2 episodes of season 3 as the “premier”. There is also a showing of a restored print of Multiple Maniacs with Divine Sept 16 (schedule says a print has been unavailable for decades).

DavidZornig
DavidZornig on September 17, 2016 at 9:34 pm

Mid `60’s photo added via the opensfhistory.org website.

stevenj
stevenj on July 2, 2017 at 12:12 pm

I bookmarked this from SF.Curbed.com and meant to post it a couple of weeks ago on the 95th anniversary of the theatre’s opening. Alex Bevk’s great article on the history of the Castro and it’s evolution into the 21st century also has some photos throughout the years.

stevenj
stevenj on September 5, 2017 at 1:00 pm

The new 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia played in a roadshow presentation over the 4 day holiday weekend starting last Friday evening. As the overture and entre act music played the house lighting dimmed gradually until only the curtains were half lit before finally going dark when the film started. Showmanship lives here! Whoever is up in the booth needs to be thanked not only for this weekend’s performances but for all films that play here. The print was great – crystal clear and vibrant.

davidcoppock
davidcoppock on February 4, 2018 at 9:45 am

The Castro theatre appeared on an episide of Mythbusters(season 2, episode 34).

stevenj
stevenj on May 22, 2018 at 7:38 pm

Saw 2001 70mm print at the 4:30 show yesterday. A couple of hiccups w/reel changes. Surprising in a theatre that seems to show 70mm several times a year. Otherwise another great presentation and a large appreciative crowd for a Monday afternoon. Another surprise was the house organist playing a 4:30 show made even more special by playing The Blue Danube and then Also sprach Zarathustra before the overture started.

Lou Rugani has posted a street shot of the line in front of the theatre for Sunday’s Kim Novak/Vertigo special event in Photos. Here is the news report from the SF Chronicle w/pics:

Kim Novak

terrywade
terrywade on August 10, 2018 at 7:09 pm

Finally after all these years of bad used small box no volume surround speakers on the side walls from the Blumenfeld Alhambra Theatre in SF the Castro Theatre will be getting a new kick ass stereo surround system we hear to go also along with their new electronic/pipe organ.

luvcinama
luvcinama on September 29, 2018 at 1:13 pm

When are they going to install the new sound system I hear of terrywade? Recently saw “Scotty” at the Castro and the sound was HORRIBLE! Very fuzzy and inaudible at times. The Castro would benefit greatly from a speedy installation of the Surround sound!

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