Tell the SF Board of Supervisors to Save the Castro Theatre & Support the Community Plan!
TELL THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO SAVE THE CASTRO THEATRE & SUPPORT THE COMMUNITY PLAN!
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THE COMMUNITY PLAN WOULD:
- Activate the Castro Theatre for 365 days per year with 2-3 events per day
- Be implemented within 60 days of a sale of the building or peaceful lease transfer
- Invest $20 million in capital improvements including enhanced disability access
- Establish a community advisory committee including representation from key community stakeholders, including the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, Castro Merchants, GLBT Historical Society, and more
- Be led by the Castro Theatre Conservancy, a nonprofit arts institution with a 20-person working group that incorporated in 2020 to enhance the Theatre's cultural legacy and future footprint
- Include diverse programming centering film and LGBTQ+ focused events, drag, live music, comedy, performance, and family-friendly programs
- Honor and enhance the Theatre's historic interior, including a fixed and accessible seating arrangement!
The Community Plan is a responsible, logical, immediately available, and superior alternative to the plan put forward by Another Planet Entertainment.
The Castro Theatre is a beacon of San Francisco's queer identity. As a historic and iconic movie theater, it has served for the past 100 years as the backbone of the Bay Area's vibrant film industry, while hosting a diverse mix of live music, performance, drag and other theatrical events. No other space holds the same status as a premiere venue, community gathering place, and international symbol of diversity and inclusion.
In the wake of controversy around new management at the Castro Theatre, this petition would support a community-inclusive plan to revitalize this essential community space as a world-class arts and culture institution.
"APE Has Only Itself to Blame"
Since Another Planet Entertainment (APE) took over management of the Theatre in early 2022, concerns have increasingly called into question whether APE is a suitable steward for this historic institution. APE has largely rebuffed efforts by LGBTQ+ community institutions and merchants, including the ad hoc coalition Friends of the Castro Theatre, to create a shared vision for the Theatre's future. Film festivals and cinephiles have moved their premieres to other venues, as APE's representatives have publicly announced the end of regular movie screenings at the internationally-renowned film palace.
What little has been made public about APE's plan is unsatisfactory. For one, APE's plan would only activate the Theatre for 175 nights per year, leaving the Theatre dark over half of the time. When asked to partner with a non-profit film institution to screen films for the remaining 190 nights of the year, APE rejected the offer, instead prioritizing costly private corporate rentals of the Theatre.
APE has also failed to demonstrate their ability to renovate the Theatre in a timely manner. A major selling point of APE's management plan is the verbal commitment to invest $15-20 million in renovations to the Castro Theatre, which includes unnecessary demolition of character-defining interior features. But recent revelations show that APE is out of compliance with their lease at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, where they made a similar commitment in 2010 to invest $10 million within 40 months. APE missed that deadline entirely. 13 years later, APE has yet to complete renovations with at least $4 million outstanding.
APE's mismanagement of community relations surrounding the next phase of this important landmark led the Editorial Board of the Bay Area Reporter, San Francisco's premiere LGBTQ+ focused news outlet, to proclaim: "APE has only itself to blame."
Landmarking the Theatre's Historic Interior
The Castro Theatre was initially granted landmark status in 1977 during a watershed moment for queer representation in San Francisco. It is the City's 100th Landmark. But the landmark status currently does not include reference to the Theatre's second period of historic significance following its initial landmarking, and does not include key character-defining interior features. Irrespective of the current controversy, the Theatre's landmark status must be updated.
In advance of the Theatre's 100-year anniversary in 2022, SF Supervisor Rafael Mandelman introduced a resolution to update the Theatre's landmark status, to ensure preservation of interior character-defining features. APE has nevertheless proposed demolition of the Theatre's interior, including to permanently eliminate the Theatre's fixed seating, in part to make the Theatre more suitable for corporate rentals. While the Theatre has long hosted a diversity of programming, including live music, comedy, drag shows, theatrical performance, and film, APE has never explained why demolition of the Theatre's interior is necessary for the Theatre's future success.
On or around May 16, 2023, the full Board of Supervisors will vote to update the Theatre's landmark status. A major sticking point is whether that will include the Theatre's character-defining interior fixed seating arrangement in movie palace style. Absent APE's intent to demolish the interior seating and flooring, this would not be controversial. But APE has represented that they intend to walk away if they don't get the blessing of the Board of Supervisors and the City's Planning Department to demolish the existing seating.
If APE walks away because they must respect the Theatre's historic interior, they will do so having never justified why the existing seating configuration is not conducive to the diverse programming it has always hosted.
The Community Plan
We are thrilled to announce a detailed plan that would revitalize the Castro Theatre for the next 100 years. Our alternative plan, led by nonprofit arts institute the Castro Theatre Conservancy, would program the Theatre for 365 days per year, with 2-3 events per day, and raise $20 million for capital improvements at the Theatre, including to improve disability access. The Conservancy's Plan would roll out over a 3-year period following acquisition of the Theatre or peaceful transition of a long-term lease agreement. The Plan would also establish a community advisory committee, including key stakeholders including the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, the Castro Merchants, the GLBT Historical Society, neighborhood groups, and other key partners of the Friends of the Castro coalition.
Why is this plan only being made public now? For the better part of the past year, community advocates and the Castro Theatre Conservancy have sought to engage in good faith, despite APE's treatment of those negotiations as a PR exercise. The Conservancy's plan has been in the works since at least 2020 and is being released in the wake of APE's resistance to compromise. As the Board of Supervisors prepares to make a critical vote on the Theatre's landmark status, Supervisors and the public should be aware that a viable alternative exists should APE make the decision to walk away.
The Castro Theatre is a community institution and is deserving of a community-backed plan. We need the Board of Supervisors to understand that if APE walks away, a viable alternative is ready to step in and honor the community's existing fabric, instead of picking it apart.
Please support the community plan to save the Castro Theatre!
"'Everyone Was in Tears': Your Memories of Movies, Joy and Community at the Castro Theatre," KQED, August 16, 2022
"New Plan Offers Another Model for the Future of the Castro Theatre," 48Hills, April 27, 2023
"Castro Theatre Conservancy releases alternate Castro Theatre plans with return of repertory film & daily events," Hoodline, April 27, 2023
"Take a Seat: Cinephiles Fear Another Planet Entertainment Will Change Castro Theatre For the Worse," SF Standard, August 12, 2022
"Editorial: APE has only itself to blame," Bay Area Reporter, April 19, 2023
"'We only have one Castro Theatre': Battle over S.F. landmark's future is about more than just seats," SF Chronicle, April 1, 2023
"The Castro Theatre Belongs to the Community," Bay Area Reporter, Guest Opinion, Tom Ammiano and Michela Alioto-Pier, April 24, 2023
"There's Only One Castro Theatre. Why Change it Now?," KQED, August 11, 2022
"City Hall Inches Forward to Landmark Castro Theatre Seats, Old Contract Comes Back To Haunt Another Planet," SFist, April 18, 2023