SF hearings on Castro Theatre plans pushed back to December

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday September 29, 2022
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Hearings before two San Francisco commissions on Another Planet Entertainment's renovations for the Castro Theatre have been postponed until early December. Photo: Scott Wazlowski
Hearings before two San Francisco commissions on Another Planet Entertainment's renovations for the Castro Theatre have been postponed until early December. Photo: Scott Wazlowski

The much anticipated city hearings about the proposed renovations of the Castro Theatre by managers Another Planet Entertainment have been pushed back until later this year at the request of the company.

Both the San Francisco Historic Preservation Committee and the San Francisco Planning Commission were to have held hearings about APE's ambitious renovation plans for the century-old movie palace October 5 and 6, respectively. Another Planet, however, requested those hearings be moved to December 7 and 8.

The decision to postpone the meetings stemmed from the public's reaction at a town hall, conducted by APE at the theater in August, said APE spokesperson, David Perry. That meeting had been presented as an opportunity for people on both sides of the controversy surrounding the proposed renovations to present their visions for the future of the cinema. While a handful of people spoke up in support of APE's plans, the vast majority were loudly opposed.

A lightning rod among the renovations proposed by APE are the plans to remove the current banked orchestral seating configuration, which have drawn criticism from people concerned not only about the aesthetic changes to the theater but, more significantly, from film enthusiasts and professionals.

The experience at the town hall, said Perry, a gay man, made the APE team realize it needed to do more outreach.

"Another Planet continues to be grateful to the many people who have expressed their support for our vision at the Castro Theatre, and deeply appreciate those with differing views," Perry wrote in a September 28 email to the Bay Area Reporter. "To make sure that we have time to fully explain and flesh out our plans, our hearings before the San Francisco Historic Preservation and Planning Commissions have been pushed back to December 7 and 8. We look forward to our full presentation at that time."

More than 300 people sent in form letters to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in support of APE, as the B.A.R. previously reported. The Castro Conservancy, a group opposed to the seating changes, has an online petition with more than 6,000 signatures, that same article reported.

But opponents continue to press APE for better communication and possibly more meetings.

Jesse Sanford, a gay man and co-chair of Castro LGBTQ Cultural District's land use committee, told the B.A.R. in an email, "It's so important to take time and care with this discussion," and

that he was hopeful the delay meant that APE was interested in a community-based plan that would benefit both the theater and the neighborhood. But, he also accused the concert promotion company of being culturally incompetent.

The cultural district has expressed concerns about the renovation plans since APE took over management of the theater.

"We are disappointed that APE's executive team on this project has not demonstrated cultural competency regarding the issues facing the diverse LGBTQ community and note their team appears to lack even the basic knowledge of the theater's long ties to the community, or of how the community transformed it into what it is today," Sanford stated.

Another Planet leadership has conceded that it hadn't understood the depth of the community's cultural attachment to the theater. At a meeting of the San Francisco Small Business Commission on August 22, APE Vice President of Business Affairs Dan Serot acknowledged that the concert promoter had really not been prepared for the backlash from the public once it announced its takeover of management of the theater back in January.

"Unfortunately for us, we didn't look at this as a community center," Serot told commissioners, but, instead, as a business venture. The theater's owners, the Nasser family, which built the theater in 1922 and has held it since, have stated publicly, however, they have full confidence in APE's abilities to preserve and maintain the old movie house successfully.

The small business commission ultimately tabled a resolution in support of APE's plans, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Sanford said the Castro cultural district was hopeful about what the hearings' delay might mean for the community, as well as the success of the theater.

"We stand ready to work with APE on a shared understanding of how the theatre's layout and programming have been intimately tied to our neighborhood's LGBTQ character," Sanford stated. "We sincerely hope their delay indicates an intent to arrive together with us on a community benefit agreement that will address these issues and help ensure the theater's success."

Updated, 9/29/22: This article has been updated to add that a group opposed to the seating renovations has an online petition with more than 6,000 signatures.

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