Lamentations on social media and editorials in other media continued over the weekend after last week's bombshell news about the Castro Theatre coming under the management of Another Planet Entertainment. And a rally on Sunday served as a gathering for the most anxious fans of the historic theater.
Another Planet has still not said much about what kind of live programming it imagines the Castro Theatre will be used for. But many locals have jumped to many conclusions already — including the writer of this 48 Hills opinion piece who imagines, based on nothing, that Diplo could be on the calendar for the 1,400-seat theater, or Snow Patrol, as if they were even still a thing.
Peaches Christ, the local drag queen, screenwriter, and movie-parody scribe also known as Joshua Grannell, had a virtual meeting with Another Planet last week on the evening of the day that the news broke. Peaches tells SFist that she's "feeling optimistic about the potential for us to work together moving forward at the Castro Theatre," and she was reassured by what the company told her about their intentions when it comes to local programming, like her popular "Midnight Mass" events.
"The biggest concern I addressed is that the venue continues to be a cinema, while they also further develop it as a performance venue and they clearly told me that this was their intention," Peaches says. "I'm really encouraged by this."
Movie buffs from across the Bay Area have assumed that the new operators will kill off the repertory film programming that has gone on for years at the theater, including mostly vintage films, double features, and weeks devoted to specific directors. And while this may not be the case every week, it sounds like Another Planet hopes to continue some of that, after a major renovation inside the theater that will include new sound equipment and a new screen. And it's not as if most live-music venues are programmed every night — so we can assume that especially early in the week it would behoove the new operators to fill the space with movies.
As Peaches Christ told the Guardian, "They assured me that the programming would be very considered. They’re not going to program it the way they would Bill Graham or remove the seats."
But, even though the theater is a private business, many people in the Castro neighborhood and all over the region feel some ownership of this particular theater — and many have harbored anxieties that, like many single-screen, historic theaters, this one might not be around forever.
On Sunday, a few dozen of these fans were out in front of the Castro Theatre with "Save the Castro" signs, and some wrote on a piece of posterboard that had been placed in one of the poster niches in front of the theater, expressing messages of fear and protest.
As local food writer Marcia Gagliardi of Tablehopper fame told the Chronicle, while at the rally, "I’m not completely against (the plan for renovation), but there needs to be more input from the community."
"As much as I’d hate to see the repertory calendar disappear, if you went to the screenings, nine times out of 10 it was less than half full,” Peaches Christ tells the Guardian. "I knew it wasn’t a sustainable model."
Another opinion piece that was in the Chronicle over the weekend jumps to its own unfounded conclusions about the future of the theater, saying it's "another LGBTQ safe space" that is being "sacrificed to the mainstream." And despite Another Planet Entertainment being a fairly small and locally grown enterprise, the piece refers to the operator change as a "corporate takeover" and likens them to the far larger concert promoter Live Nation.
Of course, only time will tell whether the Castro will be somehow "lost" in all this, or if it really needs saving from what remains a much-needed facelift and upgrade of its interior systems. (Even Peaches admits the old wiring for the stage made putting on shows "stressful.") And for some ardent fans, even though the theater has been dark for most of the last 22 months, the idea of there being fewer movies screened at the Castro in the future is enough to begin mourning.
It doesn't behoove the new operators to alienate the theater's most loyal customers — and nor does it make sense to push out acts like Peaches who are known regularly sell out shows there. So maybe we should all take a breath, let our programming desires be known, and hope that market forces in the case of this theater won't destroy the spirit of the place.
More details from Another Planet — some of them perhaps reassuring — are sure to trickle out in the coming weeks.