Located at 429 Castro Street, the Castro Theatre was built in 1922. Designed with a Spanish Colonial Baroque façade, the building pays homage to the recently rebuilt Basilica of Mission Dolores nearby. Its designer, Timothy L. Pflueger, also designed Oakland's Paramount Theater and other movie theatres in the state during that period. The theatre has over 1,400 seats (approx 800 downstairs and 600 in the balcony). In 1977, the Castro was designated City of San Francisco registered landmark number 100. It is one of the few remaining movie palaces in the nation from the 1920s that is still in operation.
Backstory and Context
Built in 1922 by the Nasser brother, the Castro Theatre was constructed at a cost of $300,000. The building itself was design by Timothy L. Pflueger who would go on to become one of the most famous Bay Area architects. His design was based on a Mexican cathedral with large windows and a unique roofline creating a grandeur in keeping with the era. The marquee and the vertical neon sign were added towards the end of the 1930s.
The interior of the building is more varied with Spanish, Oriental, and Italian influences. Both side walls of the auditorium are covered with classic motif murals which were created in a wet plaster process called scrafitto. This type of wall decoration is rare. The building also houses an Art Deco chandelier which dates from 1937 when a small electrical fire destroyed the original parchment fixture.
From its opening until 1976, the Castro showed mainstream films for their first and second runs. In 1976, the theatre was leased to Surf Theatres and later to Blumenfeld Theatres, two chains which decided to change the theatre's format to show mainly revival house, foreign films, and special first run exhibits.
These leases expired in 2001 and the Nasser family took over operation of the theatre again. They made substantial improvements to enhance and preserve the beauty and functionality of the theatre. This includes the installation of new, larger seats on the main floor, the expansion of the stage, as well as a new curtain and screen.
For a look at the calendar for the Castro Theatre, please read check the links below.
Bevk, Alex. The Epic History of the Castro Theatre, a San Francisco and LGBTQ Landmark. SF Curbed. June 22, 2016. Accessed May 28, 2017. https://sf.curbed.com/2016/6/22/12004316/san-francisco-pride-castro-theater-history-pictures.