With recent news of management and programming changes at the Castro Theater, the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District listed the new management’s demands in a letter released Jan. 20.
As the Bay Area Reporter This text will link reported >January 19, it was announced that Outside Lands music festival co-producer – Another Planet Entertainment – will be in charge of programming at the Castro Theater after the centennial – the Old Palace of the cinema is renovated. Programming will be expanded to include live music, comedy and community events in addition to movies.
Another Planet Entertainment CEO and co-founder, Gregg Perloff, said he wants to maintain the theater’s role as a community space, but longtime neighborhood residents and theater fans are very concerned about this. which they consider another example of gentrification in the Castro. For example, Marc Huestis, a homosexual who has given 55 performances at the theater over the past 40 years, said he was “very sad”.
“The way I and others were able to hold events there – it wasn’t cheap, but it was affordable,” Huestis told BAR recently. “Castro is a place like no other. But the world is changing – COVID has certainly facilitated changes like we’ve never seen. Theater as a repertoire house was no longer viable.
These concerns were echoed by a protest of more than two dozen people outside the theater on January 23 demanding the continuation of repertory film programming. They were also described in the district letter.
“On behalf of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, congratulations on the start of your operation of the historic Castro Theater,” the letter reads. “That said, we are deeply concerned about the potential loss of regular movie programming, Sing-Alongs, the Silent Film Festival, low-cost rentals available to specialty producers like Marc Huestis and Peaches Christ, and most importantly, the strong LGBTQ programming that has been a source of connection, education and enjoyment for thousands of people over the decades.”
The letter goes on to state, “We invite you to meet with our organization as soon as possible.”
It included a list of actions the District would like Another Planet Entertainment to take, such as sharing with the District details of renovation plans; hiring and supporting an event scheduler “with deep and broad knowledge of the LGBTQ community, who will work closely with other LGBTQ community organizations on bookings, scheduling and permits, including on the diversity of LGBTQ programming; and prioritize the existing annual event calendar of LGBTQ community organizations.
The district would also like the promoter to commit to refusing to book major acts that are not LGBTQ “during key weeks”, such as around Pride in June and the Folsom Street Fair in late September; work closely with the district regarding traffic and neighborhood street closures; modernize the theater organ; and continuing repertoire film screenings when the theater is not otherwise in use.
“As we learn more about the needs of theater, your operational constraints and the shape of tourism in the post-COVID era, we look forward to developing a common understanding of what is feasible and how we can deepen LGBTQ-centric programming and innovation in a mutually beneficial way,” the letter concludes.
The letter was authored by District Manager Tina Valentín Aguirre, Board Co-Chairs Stephen Torres and Corey Fusco, and Land Use Chair Jesse Oliver Sanford.
The letter was copied to gay District 8 supervisor Rafael Mandelman and was also sent to the owners of the theater building, the Nasser family.
When contacted by BAR, Another Planet Entertainment stated, “We can confirm that we had a conversation with the Castro Cultural District after receiving the letter and that APE is meeting with all stakeholders.” Asked about the details of the meeting, the company replied, “We appreciate your feedback and will contact you when we have newsworthy information to share.”
Aguirre, in a statement to BAR on Jan. 25, wrote that the district had “a preliminary meeting with APE representatives on Friday to outline our concerns and open a channel of communication.”
“While I am happy with the communication, I acknowledged at this meeting that I am very unhappy that they have botched the rollout of their management plans and that they need to build trust after the Nasser family refused to communicate with us over the past two years,” Aguirre said, adding that no specific agreement had been reached and “we agreed to speak to each other again soon, either this week or next week.”
The Nasser family did not return a request for comment at press time.
Mandelman: ‘potentially very good’ changes
Mandelman told BAR that the proposed changes to the theater could have a positive impact on the neighborhood, particularly its businesses if the new lineup brings an influx of customers to their establishments.
“The changes for the Castro Theater are potentially very good for the neighborhood, but we need to better understand what the plan is,” he told BAR. “The advantage is to attract more pedestrians and to have events that attract and not only people in the neighborhood are excited, but people in the city and the region are excited.”
While a diverse schedule of events and films “could be great,” Mandelman added, the concerns of the theater’s longtime LGBTQ event patrons and producers need to be addressed by new management.
“We need to make sure they’re a good neighbor and that they preserve, protect and champion the theater’s LGBT identity and its connection to the neighborhood,” said Mandelman, who applauded the company for committing to do exactly that. “I think, I hope they take the concerns they hear from people seriously.”
Cleve Jones, a longtime gay activist who lives in the Castro, offered his perspective to BAR, saying “a lot of people are expressing their anger, but I think we should express our gratitude to the Nasser family for having it maintained for so many years.”
“Some of the best nights of my life have been at the Castro Theater,” Jones said. “I will never forget any of this.”
Matthew S. Bajko contributed reporting.
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