The Castro Theater is changing direction, will no longer primarily screen films and will become more of a live venue

Another Planet Entertainment, the organization that launched Outside Lands and operates the Fox Theater in Oakland and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, among others, has signed an agreement to take over operations of the historic Castro Theater. And, unfortunately for moviegoers, that means it will largely cease to be a repertory cinema – but it will continue to host film festivals and other film events.

The Castro Theater has remained mostly in the dark for the past two years, having closed at the start of the pandemic and only reopened for a few select screenings in 2021, and for the Matrix Resurrections premiered last month. And today we learn that the families who have run the theater since its construction have decided to transfer operations to Another Planet in 2023.

The plan, as it stands, is for the theater to close for a “six to eight month refurbishment” before a grand reopening next year, and for the theater to become more of a live entertainment venue with music. music, comedy, community and private events, and movies. And in addition to installing a new screen and projection equipment, Another Planet plans to invest millions of dollars in updated electrical systems, an updated sound system, new lighting, ventilation and a new marquee. The iconic neon sign will also be renovated.

While the Castro has, for decades, hosted live events, they were – like the Drag Queen Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass series – often tied to the movies. And one can imagine there being conflicts down the line between the pressures to fill the calendar with sold-out acts and the tradition of showing old films.

Reassuring Bay Area moviegoers, Sarah Fink Dempsey, Vice President of Marketing at Another Planet, told SFist, “Another Planet Entertainment plans to continue the rich tradition of film festivals at the Castro. We look forward to working with festivals that have been held historically; planned enhancements include updated equipment to enhance the cinematic experience.”

The Nasser family, descendants of the Nasser brothers who built the theater in 1922, see the change as a next chapter for the venue.

“After operating the Castro Theater for nearly a hundred years, we have chosen to partner with Another Planet Entertainment for the next evolution of our historic theater,” Chris Nasser Padian, vice president of family real estate group Bay Properties, said in a statement. a statement. “Another Planet is an ideal partner, as they have a rich history with the city and in the rehabilitation of historic places. Bay Properties is delighted that the partnership with APE continues the legacy of the Castro Theater and the Castro neighborhood.”

There’s no doubt the Castro neighborhood needed a boost, with a plague of commercial vacancy in recent years and a palpable dip in nightlife energy that’s been compounded by the pandemic. But culture shock could come into play here down the line, depending on how the lineup unfolds. A theater that primarily hosted drag queen events, LGBTQ film festivals, Q&As with old movie stars, a long-running silent film festival, and vintage double features suddenly becoming a popular music venue which draws constant crowds will probably annoy some ‘hood locals – but we’ll see! At 1,400 seats, the theater has half the capacity of Fox, so wouldn’t be a logical choice for big musical acts – but capacity could change if seats are removed.

As Gregg Perloff, co-founder and CEO of Another Planet, tells the Chronicle, “We want people to say that Another Planet has changed the cultural identity of the Bay Area. We want this neighborhood to really explode with this couple.”

The first step, however, will be to deal with the city to have renovations carried out – on a historic monument no less. And Another Planet says the events already scheduled — although the theater hasn’t released a schedule in nearly two years — will go ahead as planned while they wait to close for renovations.

Update: Hoodline has learned, via Another Planet, that a centennial celebration for the theater is in the works for June 22, and they are working with Bay Properties on the planning. And they’re also hosting theater dates for Frameline and the SF International Film Festival this year.

Photo: Pistor Musiol