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The Castro Theatre
  • 429 Castro St.
  • San Francisco, CA 94114
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Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns the Castro Theatre?
The Castro Theatre was built in 1922 by the Nasser Family of San Francisco who still own the building. In January of 2022, the Nasser Family entered into an exclusive agreement with local, independent, small business Another Planet Entertainment to restore, renovate and program the historic venue, with an eye towards its significant role in the life of the Castro, film and LGBTQ+ communities.
Did Peter Pastreich of the Castro Conservancy submit an offer to the Nasser family?
Around 2019, Peter inquired about buying the Theatre and was advised by the Nasser family that the Theatre is not for sale. Peter’s conversation with the Nassers did not happen in tandem with the Another Planet negotiations. The Nasser family still owns the Theatre and Another Planet is the exclusive operator.
Who is the landlord for the two businesses adjacent to the Theatre entrance?
The Castro Theatre owners, the Nasser Family of San Francisco, own the property, and are the landlords for a coffee shop and nail salon immediately adjacent to the theatre entrance. Another Planet Entertainment is in no way involved with those businesses.
What other historic venues does APE manage?

In addition to the landmark Castro Theatre (opened in 1922), Another Planet has renovated and currently manages historic venues such as the Fox Theater (Oakland, 1928); the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley (Berkeley, 1903); and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (San Francisco, 1915).

As such, we are committed to restoring and preserving the irreplaceable architectural landmark Castro Theatre as designed by Timothy Pflueger to ensure its sustainability into the future.

Will Another Planet respect the community?

Of course. As stated in our Mission Statement: The Castro Theatre and Another Planet Entertainment are committed to an eclectic program of film, music, comedy, private and community events and LGBTQ+ content that is affirming, diverse and always cognizant of the historic neighborhood in which it lives. Another Planet is committed to supporting the artistic freedom of expression of all of our diverse performers, but we are also committed to upholding the integrity of the Castro Theatre’s Code of Conduct that promotes equality and respect above all. Always reflected onstage, backstage, in the house and in our offices and interactions, the Castro Theatre and Another Planet Entertainment are fully committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of our work. 

Does the Theatre have a code of conduct?

Yes, developed in collaboration with the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District the code of conduct is as follows: 

The Castro Theatre is in an internationally renowned LGBTQ+ neighborhood. By attending an event at the Castro Theatre, you agree to behave with respect for the LGBTQ+ residents, visitors and culture you will encounter when you visit the area. Ticket holders who violate this agreement may be excluded from acquiring tickets to future events at the Castro Theatre.

The code of conduct will be posted at the Theatre and on our website.

Will the Theatre support neighborhood businesses?

Another Planet Entertainment has joined the local Castro Merchants Association, the SF Chamber of Commerce, the Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and the Golden Gate Business Association (the world’s first LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce) specifically to make sure that we engage with, promote, understand and provide vital economic stimulation to our neighborhood businesses, restaurants and bars. There is a neighborhood section of the website that features local businesses which will be regularly included in our newsletters to fans. 

Will the organ be preserved at the Castro Theatre?

The Castro Theatre wouldn’t be the Castro Theatre without an organ rising out of the pit. The organ will stay and continue to welcome fans to the Theatre before events. The current digital organ, which is owned by Castro Theatre Lead Organist, David Hegarty, will be replaced. A new customized organ has been designed and built by the Castro Organ Devotees Association (CODA) at a cost of approximately $1 million. It will be installed at the Castro Theatre during renovations. It will be the largest hybrid (pipe/digital) organ in the world, with seven keyboards and over 800 stops. It will retain the familiar Wurlitzer sound using wind-blown pipes, and the pipes will be supplemented with digitally sampled organ and orchestral sounds to create an instrument of unparalleled capability.

After renovations, patrons can look forward to this impressive custom-designed organ that will faithfully preserve the musical tradition of the Castro Wurlitzer and significantly expand it with 21st-century technology. David Hegarty has been playing at the Castro Theatre since 1983.

Will the Castro continue to show movies?

Yes, many of the longstanding film festivals will be included in our programming, such as the Frameline Film Festival.

Our film programming has never stopped and will continue to be a regular part of the Theatre. Events such as Sing Alongs and other such interactive, community events are a priority for Another Planet’s programming. 

What will happen to the Concession Stand?

Our plans include a modular and flexible concession stand/bar. For films & spoken word events the concession stand will remain in the lobby. Additionally, we will have a second concession stand located in the mezzanine lobby. For standing room shows, we will have the ability to move the concession frontage into the theater thus improving the bar experience for concerts.

Why can’t film solely sustain the theatre?

In the years leading up to the family’s leasing of the Castro Theatre to Another Planet Entertainment, this balancing act proved more and more difficult, and the family found that, even with a program of near-daily screenings, the Theater experienced unsustainable losses, while the costs of needed capital maintenance and improvements grew significantly. Despite widespread admiration for the Theater’s programming, any person who regularly attended screenings was confronted by the fact that the Theater consistently experienced low attendance.

For example, in the final three years that the family directly operated the Castro Theatre, the Theatre operated at a loss on at least 75% of the days when only films were shown. Specifically, in 2016, there were 149 days where the Theatre showed only films (that is, without doing so as part of an advertised festival or event or along with a concert or other live performance). Out of those 149 days, the Castro Theatre generated revenue covering daily operational costs on only 16 days. In 2017, the Castro Theatre showed only films on 143 days, while generating revenue covering daily operational costs on only 17 of those days. In 2018, the Castro Theatre showed only films on 177 days, while generating revenue covering daily operational costs on only 43 of those days. In light of these circumstances, the family has concluded that operation of the Castro Theatre primarily as a cinema is not sustainable and will only undermine the theater’s viability.

To keep the venue economically viable, especially in an expensive city such as San Francisco, additional programming including concerts, special events, comedy shows and other offerings will augment our film offerings.

See also: Nasser HPC Letter (PDF)

See also:Movie theaters must ‘urgently’ rethink the experience, a study says. | New York Times, 11/29/2021

But why doesn’t the Fox Theater in Oakland show films anymore?

The Fox Theater in Oakland was originally built in 1928 and was abandoned for 42 years before Another Planet Entertainment assumed management of the Theater in 2009. The theater was not renovated to be a film house; this is not what the City of Oakland wanted.

The Theater was in such disrepair that it required a $75 million investment to upgrade. For 42 years, there was nothing happening at the Theater and now the Theater and Uptown Oakland are active for over 150 nights per year. Since opening, the Fox Theater has hosted several HBO & Pixar film premieres.

By design, as an added community benefit, Oakland School for the Arts’ building wraps the Fox Theater and activates the Theater for monthly assemblies and 4 performances per year. Additionally, two OSA students frequently shadow Fox stagehands for hands-on event production experience.

What other kind of programming will the Theatre host after renovations?

As stated in our Mission Statement, the programming at the Castro Theatre will be affirming, diverse and always cognizant of the historic neighborhood in which it lives. Film, comedy, podcasts, drag shows, concerts, community fundraisers and meetings, and more will be featured year-round. With a more flexible floorplan, the possibilities will now be endless! And as for concerts, there’s a wide variety of genres and artists that will be a great fit for the Castro Theatre, most especially LGBTQ+ artists and comedians.

Once renovations are complete, the improved facilities at the Castro Theatre will complement the historic legacy of the venue and further enshrine it as a destination for queer artists, performers, and fans.

What does APE intend to do to ensure that the Theatre upholds its cultural significance as a beacon to San Francisco’s internationally-renowned queer community?

There would be no Castro Theatre without the LGBTQ+ community. That history and legacy is inextricably linked and we will preserve and enhance the sort of programming the queer community has come to expect. We continue to speak to our LGBTQ+ neighbors and allies on a regular basis for input and ideas.

At their core, venues are a reflection of their community. That is how the Castro Theatre has become the beacon of hope, inclusivity and queer culture throughout the world. Another Planet very much intends for the Castro Theatre to continue to be that community gathering space and a venue that the neighborhood can be proud of.

Will tickets only be available through Ticketmaster?

We have not chosen a ticketing partner for the Theatre.  

Why are you changing seats and tiering the floor?

By tiering on top of the current floor we are able to achieve several goals. Our upgrades to the raked orchestra floor are 100% reversible in compliance with the Department of the Interior historic preservation standards.

  • Programming
    • The Theatre could not sustain itself financially or pay for decades of deferred maintenance based on previous business models. The tiers also allow us to reconfigure the room and tailor the space to allow for a more diverse set of programming – seated events & film, standing room concerts, fundraisers, seated dinners and more. With this added flexibility we are able to achieve a viable business model. 
  • Mechanical Systems
    • The tiers create a physical space to run ventilation into the building with minimal impact to the historic interior. Currently there is no circulation of fresh air in the building or cooling system of any kind. There are 2 residential grade heating units but they don’t consistently work and when they do are not able to properly warm the room. Post-renovation we will have a state of the art HVAC system, allowing us to achieve the Centers for Disease Control recommendation of six air changes per hour, as well as provide heating and air conditioning throughout the Theatre. 
  • Accessibility
    • The current rake (aka slope) of the orchestra floor is too steep for ADA accessibility. The tiers allow for a plan of ADA lifts and ramps that meet current standards and allow equal access for all patrons. 
  • Balcony 
    • There are approximately 600 seats in the balcony. Although we currently do not have any plans to change the balcony seating, we are always looking into possible ways to improve comfort.
How do the proposed changes facilitate accessibility to the theater, and were alternative solutions explored?

Providing accessibility throughout the theater – throughout the orchestra level, as required by code – is especially challenging because the majority of the existing sloped floor approaches twice the allowable steepness for ADA ramps. Therefore a series of accessible ramps will never “catch up” to the sloped floor and lifts are required to traverse the necessary vertical distance. Because the slope flattens out in front of the stage, that level is accessible via a ramp. Accessible seating positions also require substantial flat areas to maneuver in and out of, as well as space for Companion Seating. Alternative approaches have been studied and do not achieve an appropriate amount of accessibility. 

What will the Theatre capacity be for standing events & seated events?

The venue capacity of 1,407 will remain. However available seating on the orchestra level will be decreased to accommodate for an updated seat and to provide for ADA access. The amount of orchestra seating that will be available is pending the selection of our seating solution. 

What happens to the parking lot?

The parking lot behind the Theatre is owned and managed by SFMTA.

Will there be big trucks loading in equipment all the time?

The Theatre will have state of the art production in-house which will limit the need for outside equipment and loading needs for touring artists. 

How long will the restoration of the Castro Theatre take?

We expect construction to take 6-9 months.

How are you incorporating the community into the renovation plans?

Another Planet has entered into a partnership with BuildOUT California for the Theatre’s renovation construction. BuildOUT California is the world’s first LGBT Industry Association dedicated to the sustainable growth of LGBT+ owned & certified businesses, and our allies, in the fields of Architecture, Engineering, Construction Services, Real Estate Development, and Related Industries.

What about community event producers that can’t afford to pay higher costs?

Another Planet is working with a non-profit partner in order to off-set the costs. More details to be released once finalized. 

Has APE responded to the April Letter from the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District?

Yes, the letter was received on March 21, 2022 and Another Planet responded April 6, 2022. You can view the letter and our response HERE. Another Planet continues to meet with the Cultural District. 

When are the next meetings?

On Wednesday, February 1 st , the Historic Preservation Commission (“HPC”) will be holding a hearing regarding the HPC’s review and potential updating of the landmark designation of the Castro Theatre.

  • Time: 12:30 p.m.
  • Location: City Hall, Rm 400
  • You can also watch the hearing on SFGovTV.

Where will the seats be stored?

The seats will be stored at the Castro Theatre. We are utilizing vertical storage space in the stage wings.

Why does the floor need to be modified to enable greater ADA access?
Current codes requires a 1:12 slope (12” of ramp for every 1” of step). The majority of the Castro Theatre orchestra has a slope of 1:6, twice the required slope. It’s simply not possible to create an accessible space without altering the existing floor because ramps with compliant slope will never “catch up” with the steeply sloping orchestra floor.
Why are you installing lifts?
Lifts are specifically called out as a solution in the California Historic Building code to provide access in situations where ramps are not feasible.
How can you ensure that wheelchair users will be able to safely exit the theatre if there’s an emergency? What if the power to the lifts is shut off?
The accessible lifts will be equipped with a back-up power source so they will remain operable in a power outage. Patrons in Tiers 3 and 5 (the back of the room) can access emergency exit doors without using a lift.

Do you still have questions left?