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 2, 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 ceiling. 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 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” starring Sean Penn, 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 was still going strong in the country’s best known gay neighborhood. Playing films from across the spectrum of independent film, revivals and classic movies, the Castro Theatre is one of the last picture palaces left in the San Francisco area. Sadly, despite a strong community opposition new operators Another Planet Entertainment planned to convert the theatre into a concert venue, and approval was granted in June 2023 to convert it into a nightclub. It was seen as open in October 2023, screening occasional one night movies current & classic once or twice a week, with an occasional concert once or twice a week. The neon on the huge vertical sign has sections missing and also parts of neon on the marque are not working. It is sad to see on an evening when there is nothing happening in the shuttered theatre with barriers across the entrance lobby.

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

Contributed by Tom Rielly, Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 181 comments)

m00se1111 on March 11, 2023 at 3:06 am

Christopher Beale’s podcast on history and possible for the future of the Castro

m00se1111 on April 7, 2023 at 4:55 pm

“On Thursday 4/6/23, the Castro Merchants voted to conditionally support Another Planet Entertainment’s (APE) proposed changes to the 100-year-old Castro Theatre.”

Stephen Bracco has details in his hoodline article

m00se1111 on April 27, 2023 at 9:45 am

The Castro Theatre Conservatory has realized an ambitious plan to wrest the Castro from the clutches of APE. It would leave the seating and interior as plan.

Plans call for a 365 day a year schedule. 200 days of film, 52 for film festivals.

stevenj on June 7, 2023 at 7:41 am

“SF Supervisors Vote in Support of Castro Theatre Landmark Update Without Controversial ‘Fixed Seating’ Language”

Hoodline article Here

HowardBHaas on June 7, 2023 at 1:49 pm

I think there ought to be a difference between the preferences of people who would prefer for fixed seating, and more film screenings, and legal landmarking, so I understand government’s wishes to landmark the theater but not obligate fixed seating. Historic preservation law is one matter. Policy & shows are another.

terrywade on June 16, 2023 at 8:00 am

Looks like the old seats are going and the place will be a nightclub soon. Limited movies. The new lease APE gang does not even pop fresh popcorn. They just bring in bulk pre popped popcorn and put in little expensive brown bags and re heat in the old big Castro Theatre popcorn machine and charge big bucks. You think you are getting fresh popcorn this is not the case. The cold drinks are now given to you in cans $$$$.A sad day for movie lovers in SF. The seats are going per new commission ruling this week.

m00se1111 on June 16, 2023 at 8:05 am

Perhaps someone can update the penultimate paragraph in the description. This theatre is hardly ‘going strong’ , it’s the complete opposite. has an article on the ensuing debacle

Moviefan333 on June 18, 2023 at 1:00 pm

The Theatre is not able to survive as a single screen theater showing movies. Attendance has been not good for the theaters movie selection. The plan is to have concerts with film 33% of the time and concerts and maybe other events. Clearly the community wasn’t supporting the theater when they were showing films not dealing with the gay lifestyle. They had plenty of regular classic films that were poorly attended. The only future for the theater is to have concerts and other non-movie events. They’ll probably have Movies 1/3 of the time. That’s just the reality with single screen theaters now

m00se1111 on October 22, 2023 at 6:43 am

This is marked as closed? Been showing movies on an occasional basis and then with live performances. So technically it is open, no?

One of the last hurdles for renovations to begin at the Castro Theatre was delayed by a Board of Supervisors committee Monday due to a technical amendment involving second-floor nighttime entertainment.

Without a change to the zoning for the main corridor in the city’s LGBTQ neighborhood, the new operators of the venue will not be able to have a bar on the second floor for liquor sales.

Full article -

stevenj on October 22, 2023 at 9:03 am

The Castro is very much open. Events scheduled between Oct 23 and Jan 13, 2024 including both live performances and film are linked here at the APE website for the Castro:

Castro Schedule

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