Groups canceling events at Castro Theatre, Another Planet says

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 2, 2022
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Some groups have pulled their events from the Castro Theatre over Another Planet Entertainment's renovation plans that have sparked controversy. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
Some groups have pulled their events from the Castro Theatre over Another Planet Entertainment's renovation plans that have sparked controversy. Photo: Scott Wazlowski

The continuing furor over proposed renovations to the Castro Theatre is having an impact on the day-to-day operations of the beloved movie palace, according to an employee of Another Planet Entertainment, which now manages it.

At the September 1 meeting of the Castro Merchants Association, APE program director Margaret Casey told the group it has had cancellations because of the controversies, particularly surrounding the proposed removal of the theater's raked seating. There has been substantial public outcry over APE's plans to remove the cinema's existing seating layout in favor of a multi-tiered plan which would allow for seatless, open areas for people to stand in during concerts.

Staff at the theater have also been affected, Casey said.

Another major point of contention has been worry about APE's commitment to LGBTQ programming, to which APE repeatedly says it's strongly committed. Ironically, it was an LGBTQ-focused event that canceled.

While Casey, a straight ally, characterized HeadPrint House's decision to cancel its "Our Night" event as a result of pressure, event organizer Jessie Sunday, also a straight ally, said it was more a "sort of implied" pressure.

"We did not receive any direct pressure," Sunday told the Bay Area Reporter.

Sunday is the events director for HeadPrint House, which focuses on programming of interest to the drag community, she said. That, in turn, is part of HeadPrint Studios, a Pacific Heights salon owned by Teddy Greene, which has just opened its second location in the Castro. The organization has sponsored numerous other events, such as last year's Holiday Artist Market, and the Make Me Up Glam Class.

HeadPrint House is "an organization built out of the passion for the queer community, especially creators and artists," said Sunday.

But still, the controversy was very real, she added, and she heard from numerous participants in "Our Night" said they felt uncomfortable going forward with the program given how emotionally charged the matter has become within the LGBTQ community.

"The show we have created is fully baked," Sunday, 39, said. "We have this cabaret show of all local performers from the LGBTQ community: drag kings, drag queens, fashion designers."

In addition, there was to have been an art display and sale on the theater's mezzanine. Proceeds from the event were to go toward trans-focused programming in conjunction with the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, said Sunday.

Not all the performers and show participants shared the same sentiment, but everyone "respected the choice and completely understood," Sunday said. The APE town hall held in August only added to the heat. There, several hundred people showed up to voice their displeasure with APE's renovation plans, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

"We're just taking a pause to give space to this politically charged climate," Sunday said.

This wasn't the first time the show was canceled, however. An earlier attempt slated for July 14 was postponed when Sunday's expected child insisted upon being born two months early, said Sunday, who has one child already. After discussions with Casey, the July show was moved to September 16, which is now canceled.

"Margaret has been fantastic to offer this change," said Sunday.

The production will happen eventually, Sunday continued, and APE has been "very excited about the show."

Although, as the Castro Theatre's end-of-the-year holiday programming comes into play, followed with at least several months of renovation work that will close the theater for much of 2023, it may be a while before "Our Night" finally makes it to the stage.

Other groups, too, have canceled, said Casey. In one instance, Bears of San Francisco canceled a volunteer appreciation event, she said. After negotiations, BoSF and APE had agreed upon a $1,000 fee that included pretty much everything, Casey said.

"We were gonna lose a little money, but that's OK," she said but, then, "out of the blue," a third person from the group contacted her and said "no, no, we're not doing it."

That incident left Casey wondering if the bears were pulling out for similar reasons but, according to BoSF Chair Erik Green, it was simply a decision that the venue was too large for their event of 30 to 40 people.

Another Planet "absolutely bent over backwards" to meet the group's needs, said Green, who added they've had an "excellent relationship" with the concert promoters, who are also sponsors of this year's Bearrison Street Fair that takes place October 15 on Harrison Street in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.

Impact on staff, too

Casey, however, said that the ongoing trials have begun to have an impact on staffing at the Castro Theatre, as well.

Employees of APE, particularly the younger ones who tend to work as ushers and other positions that put them into contact with the public, have been bearing much of the brunt of the controversy over the theater's future.

"We've found that people were really beating up on ushers and event managers, pushing back on young people just doing their job," said Casey.

It's gotten to the point that many APE staffers, who are assigned to events all over the Bay Area, such as the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, the Fox Theatre in Oakland, and the Independent in San Francisco, are asking to be reassigned from events at the Castro, she said.

There's also been a lot of insistence by critics that APE use LGBTQ staff at Castro events, but that isn't a realistic demand, said Casey.

While she estimates that about one-third of APE staff are LGBTQ, the company doesn't make hiring decisions based on a person's sexual orientation, she said.

"It's a surprise," said Casey. "Another Planet is used to being the good guy, so it's been an unusual experience to get piled on."

Updated, 9/2/22: This article has been updated with information from the Bears of San Francisco.

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