We now have some details on the timeline of the Castro Theatre's upcoming closure and renovation at the hands of Another Planet Entertainment — renovations that will include the controversial removal of seats.
It will have been a full two years since Another Planet (APE) announced its management takeover of the Castro when the historic theater closes on February 4, 2024. And as Hoodline reports, the renovation is now expected to take around 16 months, with a planned reopening timeframe of "Summer 2025."
Neighborhood activists spent much of the early part of this year battling over details of the future of the theater, with many up in arms over APE's plan to remove the orchestra-level seats in the theater and install tiered platforms — much like those that are on the orchestra level of Oakland's Fox Theatre, which APE also oversaw the renovation of nearly two decades ago.
One group of motivated protesters also put together their own competing management proposal for the Castro which focused on film screenings. That plan was dismissed in May as untenable by the theater owners, the Nasser family.
APE ultimately got their way, with the SF Board of Supervisors approving their renovation plans in June. And the firm got its final approval in October to expand liquor service to the theater's second floor.
As Hoodline explains, the renovations will include careful restoration of the theater's ornate ceiling details and side-wall murals. And while the permanent seats will be removed on the orchestra level, APE plans to have removable seating that can be installed for film screenings and sit-down performances, and then uninstalled for bigger concert events.
Future programming at the Castro remains an open question, though it is likely to include a broad mix of music acts, drag performances, film festivals, standup comedy, and one-off film screenings. The theater, with a 1,400-person capacity (including around 600 permanent seats on the mezzanine), provides a new mid-size venue for Another Planet to work with — larger than The Independent, but smaller than the Fox or Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, which play host to more popular acts.
"Another Planet Entertainment is thrilled to begin the work to restore the Castro Theatre to its 1922 architectural glory and ensure its continued place in the hearts of film lovers, music lovers, and the LGBTQ+ community,” said Mary Conde, APE's senior vice president, in a statement.
Activists and neighborhood film buffs remain concerned that the film aspect will be shoved aside for more profitable programming once the theater reopens. And one sticking point prior to the supervisors' sign-off in June had to do with community engagement by APE, and how much LGBTQ programming will occur.
"What seemed like very simple expectations were just deemed impossible,” Castro LGBTQ Cultural District co-chair Jen Reck said in public comments before the June vote. “It feels very disappointing if what is voted upon is one meeting annually with the Cultural District."
Reck added, "To have a representative for APE say they want the Castro Theatre to be the global LGBTQ cultural hub, and then at minimum they’ll have 25% of LGBTQ programming, but they can’t understand how they would ever figure out what that might actually entail because it’s complex — that’s where the community comes in."
In the meantime, the Castro has had a somewhat full schedule of familiarly LGBTQ-focused events in November and December, including a Bette Davis double-feature screening two Sundays ago, and upcoming concerts by the Gay Men's Chorus. Also, drag legend Justin Vivian Bond and partner Kenny Mellman are bringing their Kiki & Herb holiday show to the Castro this weekend, and gay performer and comedian Matt Rogers is bringing his cabaret show "Have You Heard of Christmas?" there next week.
A double-feature of It's a Wonderful Life and Die Hard will be screening this Sunday.