As the historic landmarking of the interior of the Castro Theater moves toward the Planning Commission and the Board of Supes, community leaders are continuing to work to find a solution that preserves the theater as a film venue.
The Castro Theater Conservancy made a second offer Jan. 31 to Another Planet Entertainment, which has the current lease and the Nasser family, which owns the building, to take over the lease, including a promise to raise $20 million for the needed renovations.
Among the proposals, which the conservancy’s Julie Richter shared with me:
● It is the intent of the Castro Theatre Conservancy, a California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, to operate and improve the Castro Theatre consistent with its rich history for the benefit of the San Francisco community and as the most important landmark theatre in the Bay Area.
● Building on San Francisco’s long, rich history of celebrating and highly valuing diversity, the Conservancy is committed to preserving and expanding the diverse and inclusive programming that is representative of the community that has done so much in helping to keep the Castro Theatre at the forefront of the City’s arts and culture scene.
● The proposal commits the Castro Theatre Conservancy to raise $20,000,000, dedicated to upgrading the building while maintaining its historic features, within the first two years of the lease term.
● Beyond the first two years, there would be additional 10-year options to extend, for up to 72 years total.
● The CTC would operate the Castro Theatre as a multi-use entertainment venue hosting film festivals, comedy shows, concerts, drag performances and other events, with a strong commitment to LGBTQ-oriented programming.
Yes, $20 million is a lot of money. (It’s weird to me that the owners of the building want someone else to pay for their deferred maintenance and upgrades, but APE offered to do that, so the conservancy would have to match the offer.)
But if you look at the members of the conservancy, these are folks who have lots of experience not only in nonprofit management but in fundraising. I suspect there are local, state, and federal grants that might be available for historic preservation.
David Perry, a spokesperson for APE, told me:
The condition of the Castro Theatre is such that we must act now to ensure the physical safety of patrons, artists and all who visit the theatre, not a fundraising campaign. No offers received from the Castro Conservancy have in any way addressed the long term, or immediate short-term needs of the theatre, including critically important physical infrastructure and safety upgrades.
We look forward to our next hearings and are gratified by the growing support we are receiving for our revised seating plans including endorsements by the major users of the Castro including the Frameline International LGBTQ Film Festival, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, The Castro Organ Devotees Association (CODA), The Silent Film Festival, numerous ADA and disability activists including the producers of “Dani’s Twins,” legendary drag artist and community activist Donna Sachet and other local businesses including the owner of Cafe du Nord.”
Richter told me that “APE says that they are the only option. But we want to be clear there are other options out there.”
She said the conservancy would be happy to see another nonprofit take over. “It’s not about us, it’s about saving the theater,” she said.
The Planning Commission will likely just approve the somewhat vague language of the Historic Preservation Commission, and this spring the issue will come before the Land Use and Transportation Committee of the Board of Supes.
That’s Sups. Myrna Melgar, Dean Preston, and Aaron Peskin.
But since this is the Castro, Sup. Rafael Mandelman will have a big role; board members often defer to district supes on local issues.