Hold the phone! According to a local film industry source (via Michael Petrelis) the venerable and universally adored Castro Theatre is allegedly going to cease to be a movie house in January, and undergo some renovations (including — ack — a shrinking of the screen) to become more of a live entertainment venue. The switch is said to be more profitable to the Castro's owner.

As you may know, the theater was built in 1922 by San Francisco entrepreneurs, the Nasser brothers. The place remains in the hands of the brothers' descendents, namely one Don Nasser. Petrelis reports that "Most of the theatre's management and consulting teams have been let go," and he adds, "not one gay person remains in a senior position."

We should note that when Petrelis went to the Coming Soon page on the Castro's website yesterday, it was blank, but as of today we see a screening of a new print of Jean-Luc Goddard's Weekend scheduled for January 6 to 8.

The rumor is that renovations will require the theater to shrink the size of the screen and add a backstage dressing area, and that the screen may continue to be used for the various film festivals that make their regular home there. Throughout 2011 the Castro has been operating on a reduced schedule, and has started operating five nights a week during some months.

Nevertheless this is a sad day for film buffs, and for a city that has lost most of its single-screen theaters in the last few decades — not to mention the Red Vic, just a few months back. None really compare to the grandeur of the Castro, and we're sure the neighborhood and film community will make a good bit of noise about this, should it prove true.

Update: The Bay Citizen got a Castro employee on the record claiming that Petrelis kind of jumped the gun on this one and did not have good information, and that a new statement from the theater, to be released shortly, should "put an end to the furor." Furthermore, the Castro posted the following on their Facebook page: "Just to set the record straight, the Castro Theatre will continue to show Rep films, Film Festivals and occasional live performances. Any rumors out there are totally false."

Petrelis stands by his article, saying that his "source maintains the owner is headed in a live performance direction and stands by the information shared with me. "

[The Petrelis Files]