The old Castro Theatre sing-along shows have gone rogue while the theater sits unused, as the “Save the Seats” crowd is rebooting the traditional movie screenings in a “Castro In Exile” series starting with Sing-Along Grease on April 7.
The latest development in the ongoing Castro Theatre saga is a slick move by those who are hopelessly devoted to preserving traditional movie theater screenings at the 100-year-old movie palace.
Concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment took over operations of the Castro in January 2022, with grand plans to remove the orchestra-level seats and turn the place into more of a standard live music venue. But backlash from the Castro community has delayed those plans.
The theater has not held a single event in nearly two months, a move that critics charge is an intentional act of self-sabotage intended to create the impression that film screenings are no longer economically viable for the theater.
The Friends of the Castro Theatre Coalition is excited to sponsor Sing-Along Grease as part of the “Castro in Exile” programming! We hope that this provides a little of what our community has missed in the long three years since regular programming at the Castro ceased under APE. https://t.co/5F3OyR5WMC— Friends of the Castro Theatre (@FriendOfCastro) March 17, 2023
But the theater preservation group Friends of the Castro Theatre just announced a time and a place and a motion to reboot the traditional Castro Theatre screenings while the theater itself sits dark. They’re launching a new series of screenings called Castro In Exile, calling it “a new programming series to draw attention to the beloved programming that used to frequent the legendary Castro Theatre.” Their first event will be Sing-Along Grease at the Roxie Theater on Friday, April 7 at 6:30 p.m.
“With ‘Castro in Exile,’ we hope to provide a little of what our community has missed in the year since the Castro has been under Another Planet Entertainment’s management, and the long three years since regular programming at the Castro ceased,” Castro LGBTQ Cultural District advisory board executive co-chair Stephen Torres said in a release. “This series demonstrates the importance of these beloved events. They are vital to the preservation and vibrancy of the Castro neighborhood and for keeping safe spaces for our most vulnerable communities.“
We should note that the Friends of the Castro Theatre is not the same organization as the Castro Theatre Conservancy, a very well-connected nonprofit leading a charge to preserve the theater as a movie palace. That nonprofit has proposed to “commit to raising $20 million for the purpose of upgrading and rehabilitating the theatre” to keep the Castro a movie house, and counts Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and Martin Scorsese among its supporters, at least in name. Whereas the Friends of the Castro Theatre is more of a loose coalition of community groups like the Castro Merchants Association and Castro LGBTQ Cultural District who are helping organize preservation advocacy efforts. (And the Castro Theatre Conservancy is one of the member groups in the Friends of the Castro Theatre.)
But these Castro In Exile screenings are clearly an act of defiance and a provocation toward Another Planet Entertainment (APE), who on the night of this April 7 Sing-Along Grease, will have not booked an event at the Castro Theatre for a full two months and 10 days.
Castro In Exile promoters say that for Sing-Along Grease,“Each ticket holder will receive a bag of goodies to interact with the screening. Guests are invited to dress in their best Grease-inspired attire, as prizes will be awarded.”
In terms of the Castro Theatre itself, APE and the theater preservationists are coming into a critical stretch. On Monday, April 3, the SF Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Transportation Committee will consider a motion to apply landmark designation to the Castro Theatre seats, a move that the SF Historic Preservation Commission has already recommended. A landmark designation would likely scuttle APE’s proposed seating changes, though the final call on that landmark designation will be decided by the full San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
At this point, the only thing that’s certain about the future of the Castro Theatre is that this movie still has plenty more unexpected plot twists to come.
Image: Paramount Pictures