Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

News in brief: Theater
readies for summer blockbusters


Workers finish up on the renovated Castro Theatre marquee in January, just before filming for the Milk movie began. Photo: Steven Underhill
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In a move to increase profits, the Castro Theatre plans to show several summer blockbusters this year. It is finalizing negotiations to show the latest Indiana Jones flick and will be home to the San Francisco premiere of Sex and the City.

The theater is also looking to show another major release in August, as well as screening Oscar contenders in late fall and early winter. In preparation the theater is installing a new surround sound system and upgrading its projection equipment.

"We are just working gangbusters here to make this the most enjoyable experience when people come in. For a lot of people who will come here, more than likely it will be their first time here at the theater. We want them to have a great time here," said Bill Longen, the theater's events producer and coordinator.

Showing first-run movies is a departure from the historic landmark's normal business plan of being home to numerous film festivals and screening classic movies. Longen said the Castro will remain committed to both aspects of its program and will schedule first run films around its other commitments.

"We want to keep the rep business and all the festivals here. They are our pride and joy," said Longen. "But we also want to mix that in with new holiday films."

The fourth installment in the Indiana Jones movies opens May 22, and the plan is to have it screen until the opening of the LGBT Film Festival in mid-June. Tickets would be priced at $10, said Longen.

The Sex and the City premiere is scheduled for May 28 and will be a benefit for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Longen said the details are still being worked out and tickets would go on sale later this month.

The theater's newly repainted and upgraded marquee – at a cost of $85,000 – continues to be damaged by delivery trucks attempting to park on Castro Street. In recent weeks both a fruit delivery vehicle and a Sunset Scavenger garbage truck hit the marquee.

"No sooner than we had it finished, two weeks later another truck bashed into it and caused $6,000 of damages," said Longen.

The problem is due to the fact that the street is not flat in front of the theater.

"The street bows. Unfortunately the trucks lean sideways, so when they back it in they back into the marquee," he said.

In an effort to halt more damage, the city will be installing tree planters between the white loading zone in front of the theater. The hope is they will prevent truck drivers from getting too close to the theater's sign. They are expected to be installed this month. No parking will be lost, said Longen.

"It is an experiment to see how it looks," he said.

Meth support program goes weekly

A support group for friends, buddies, and partners of meth users will be held weekly, beginning Thursday, April 17.

Called the Buddies program, it was initially conceived by Buzz Bense, the founder and former owner of Club Eros, who collaborated with New Leaf: Services for Our Community and the health department's STD Prevention and Control branch. A preliminary workshop was held in February. Based on input from the community, the Buddies program will now meet as a weekly drop-in group at the New Leaf offices, 105 Hayes Street, on Thursdays from 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Each group will be facilitated by volunteer community members and an experienced New Leaf staff counselor. The first hour will be devoted to checking in and sharing what is going on in people's lives. The last half hour will focus on group-generated topics such as dealing with anger, frustration and betrayal; healthy boundaries; creating support; communication; and healthy and affirming sex.

The group is free and there is no need to pre-register. The program has been designed to meet both the needs of folks interested in an occasional drop-in experience and those who want a more traditional experience with ongoing participation of up to six weeks.

For more information, call New Leaf at (415) 626-7000 or e-mail Bense at

Housing authority meeting

The first community partners meeting to discuss the annual plan for the San Francisco Housing Authority will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 17 at 440 Turk Street in the commission room.

Discussion topics will include all aspects of the authority: public housing management and maintenance, security, the capital funding program, HOPE VI developments, Section 8 housing, and administrative services.

The housing authority will submit a grant application totaling approximately $14 million for 2008 CFP funds.

The authority plans to hold meetings with residents throughout San Francisco in order to update the five-year (2005-2009) plan and the 2008 annual statement.

Canvas bags for STD month

In recognition of April being Sexually Transmitted Disease Awareness Month, the San Francisco health department's "Dogs Are Talking" syphilis testing campaign is teaming up with DeLano IGA Market in the Castro, which will be giving out free canvas bags to customers to carry their groceries. The market also will display information about the Dogs Are Talking campaign.

Promotions West, the social marketing firm behind the campaign, has reached out to other businesses and health-related agencies to promote good health among community members. Dogs Are Talking features pet dogs (who are privy to everything that occurs in their guardians' lives) discussing common human behaviors that affect male sexual health.

For more information, visit

Panel upholds SOMA bar permits

The city's Board of Appeals last week declined to hold up the relocation plans of a South of Market gay bar. The decision allows the owners of the Hole in the Wall to move forward with their plans to re-open the 8th Street bar in a space on Folsom Street near 9th Street.

The five-member panel voted unanimously last week to reject two appeals filed by Jakkee Bryson, who lives on Dore Alley across the street from the bar's new location. Bryson had protested the bar's construction permits and a permit allowing it to install a pool table and pinball machine.

Bryson said little at the meeting Wednesday, April 2 as she complained the air in the fourth floor hearing room of City Hall was affecting her asthma and allergies. She told the panel that it was "premature" for the city to grant the bar the permits since it has yet to receive permission from state regulators to transfer its liquor license to the new space.

Numerous supporters of the bar and its owners, life partners John Gardiner and Joseph Banks, packed the room and beseeched the board to reject Bryson's complaints. In the end, the panel found no reason to overturn the permits.

"I would happily support this permit. It is consistent with this neighborhood. There are certainly plenty of bars in this neighborhood," said board member Robert Haaland, a transman and labor activist.

Now the fight over the bar's move heads to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Bryson is protesting the Hole in the Wall's application for a liquor license transfer, while the bar's owners and patrons are reaching out to state officials as they wait for the agency to schedule a hearing in the matter.

Matthew S. Bajko contributed to this report.

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