UPDATED: Is San Francisco's Castro Theatre Finished as a Movie Venue? Not So Fast?

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by Anthony Kaufman
December 9, 2011 9:42 AM
4 Comments
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Earlier this week, it was reported the famous Castro Theatre, long a cinematic home for the queer community, art-house gems and one of San Francisco's classic movie palaces (built in 1922), was finished as a movie theatre, according to the blog, the Petrelis Files. Many staffers were fired, it was suggested, and next year, it would no longer regularly book films. But according to a new report at BayCitizen.org, the Castro isn't fading to black. Or is it?

In his own update, Petrelis stands by his account, but the venue's Facebook page has an update that says, "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."

Via Facebook, the theater also announced that Keith Arnold would be their new film booker and general manager of all theatre operations. "We look forward to continuing our tradition of fine cinema presentation, hosting great festivals and unique, diverse programming."

Petrelis, however, isn't backing down. "I've conferred with my source and they stand by the changes reported last night that will eventually take place over the next year or so at the Castro," he writes. "The source maintains the owner is headed in a live performance direction and stands by the information shared with me."

A spate of recent personnel changes fueled this rumor, which Petrelis said came from a Castro employee who did not want to be named.

A current Castro employee said a statement is coming soon that will put an end to the furor.

On the venue's Facebook page, the theater wrote, "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."

Marc Huestis, who has been producing film events at the Castro for almost two decades, also confirmed that he has bookings planned in 2012.

"Nothing for me has changed and the Castro has been a fine place to do business and create events. Better now than in days past," he wrote in an email.

The recent staff changes actually appear to be good news for film fans: booking will be done on the premises rather than with a part-time worker based in Los Angeles.

But while the Castro isn't doing more than tweaking its operations, big changes have been afoot this past year in the rep house world. Repetory programming basically got its start in the Bay Area (as did famed film writer Pauline Kael, who used to write the calendar notes for a small Berkeley theater) but technological changes (first Betamax, then Netflix) have forced many out of business. This year, Gary Meyer's Balboa Theater, which shows a mix of first-run and classic films, came close to going out of business and the Roxie, in the Mission, has shifted to a non-profit model. The Red Vic, of course, ended its decades of screenings this past year. 

But maybe microcinema, another trend to emerge from the Bay Area's alternate film world, will rise again? Currently, beloved video store Lost Weekend is raising money on Kickstarter for a small theater in their basement dubbed the "Cinecave." It's not the Castro, but then again, nothing is.

Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/14FvO)

Thankfully, the Castro isn't actually fading to black. 

A spate of recent personnel changes fueled this rumor, which Petrelis said came from a Castro employee who did not want to be named.

A current Castro employee said a statement is coming soon that will put an end to the furor.

On the venue's Facebook page, the theater wrote, "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."

Marc Huestis, who has been producing film events at the Castro for almost two decades, also confirmed that he has bookings planned in 2012.

"Nothing for me has changed and the Castro has been a fine place to do business and create events. Better now than in days past," he wrote in an email.

The recent staff changes actually appear to be good news for film fans: booking will be done on the premises rather than with a part-time worker based in Los Angeles.

But while the Castro isn't doing more than tweaking its operations, big changes have been afoot this past year in the rep house world. Repetory programming basically got its start in the Bay Area (as did famed film writer Pauline Kael, who used to write the calendar notes for a small Berkeley theater) but technological changes (first Betamax, then Netflix) have forced many out of business. This year, Gary Meyer's Balboa Theater, which shows a mix of first-run and classic films, came close to going out of business and the Roxie, in the Mission, has shifted to a non-profit model. The Red Vic, of course, ended its decades of screenings this past year. 

But maybe microcinema, another trend to emerge from the Bay Area's alternate film world, will rise again? Currently, beloved video store Lost Weekend is raising money on Kickstarter for a small theater in their basement dubbed the "Cinecave." It's not the Castro, but then again, nothing is.

Source: The Bay Citizen (http://s.tt/14FvO)

Earlier, Petrelis wrote, "Word is that the enormous screen will shrink for an occasional film festival, but nothing is firm about the screen or a solid commitment to festivals," writes Petrelis.

Instead of film showings, the venue will be dominated by live performances. But as Petrelis worries, "Seems to me turning the Castro from a low-priced film temple into a higher-priced live performance venue would equal fewer folks coming to the gayborhood."

An article in Bright Lights Film Journal calls the Castro "a crucial component of modern gay life in a way that extends far beyond the borders of the famous neighborhood in which it resides." The article also fondly recalls a 1996 screening of "The Poseiden Adventure" with a live appearance by Carol Lynley, which typified the Castro's dedication to its community. "This screamingly funny evening had its share of surprises — local San Francisco street musician Susan "The Space Lady" soulfully rendering "There's Got to Be a Morning After" with accordion and electronic Viking helmet, Carol Lynley's interviewer (a local critic) shrieking at the less-than-reverent audience, "Have some respect for the lady!" Proceeds from this sell-out went to AIDS charities."

The coming soon page for the Castro currently has on its schedule for 2012  an early January booking of Godard's "Weekend" and, recently added, a special Valentine's Day screening of "Love Story."

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4 Comments

  • hilary | December 28, 2011 5:46 PMReply

    everyone in SF knows that the blogger's source is a disgruntled former employee. You don't hire Keith Arnold and turn away from films. The family that owes the Castro has been committed to movies since the 1920s.

  • Shade Rupe | December 8, 2011 6:42 PMReply

    It's not true: http://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/culturefeed/rumors-castro-theatres-film-death/

  • anthony | December 7, 2011 2:09 PMReply

    Thanks for the update. Someone on Twitter also suggested that Petrelis Files was an unreliable source. I wait to be proven wrong. If anyone else knows more details, please let me know, and I will be glad to correct the post.

  • Marc Huestis | December 7, 2011 1:24 PMReply

    the rumors about the CASTRO are largely untrue spread 1 disgruntled employee, and picked up by one unreliable blogger & unfortunately going viral. Please this is THE PROBLEM with the internet- one person can spread their version of events and a blogger will pick it up and bend things out of shape. I have produced events at the Castro for 17 years (http://marchuestispresents.com) and know the "inside baseball" and these rumors would be batted down if anyone was industriouness enough to do their job and actually REPORT. Sample rumor -changes MUST be true cuz there are no coming events on CASTRO WEBSITE. I know I have been waiting for almost a month for confirmation by a celebrity for VALENTINES DAY and that's the ONLY reason I don't have anything there. Nothing for me has changed and the Castro has been a fine place to do business and create events. Better now than in days past. The CASTRO is beloved- and folks there are well aware of that. It also is a business and like any other business they shift things to try to keep their head above water.

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