Home Entertainment Fear, concern after SF supes won’t landmark Castro Theatre seats

Fear, concern after SF supes won’t landmark Castro Theatre seats

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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday 6-4 to expand the Castro Theater’s landmark designation to include the defining features of its interior and its LGBTQ+ cultural significance, but it was met with intense public debate. The orchestra level seats covered were excluded.

The theater’s current operator, Another Planet Entertainment, is planning a $15 million full renovation that will include upgrading screens, dressing rooms, ventilation systems, and restoring aging interiors such as ceilings and chandeliers. But Another Planet also wants to flatten the theater’s sloping floor and replace the orchestra-level seating with a stepped platform of removable seating. Such a move has drawn fierce opposition from neighbors, filmmakers, non-profit leaders and community activists who say it will irrevocably change the character of the theater.

In May, a board committee approved an amendment granting landmark designation to “fixed theater seating configured in cinema style,” including orchestral level seating. Only the “presence of a seat” was protected in the original language.

The problem, as queer public historian Gerald Koscovich previously told SFGATE, is that the ambiguity of the “presence of a seat” could be “taken to represent any kind of seat,” and that existing orchestral-level He explained that the seat could not be protected. As part of the theater’s LGBTQ intangible cultural heritage.

Others, including longtime San Francisco resident Barbara Gersh, who served as a public commentator at the Castro Theater’s final hearing, said the removal of the seats would be “the final blow to San Francisco’s already limping film culture. ” he claimed.

But on Tuesday, a majority of the board voted against amended language that clearly protects seats at the orchestral level. The group includes director Rafael Mandelman, who was the first to introduce legislation to expand the theater’s landmark status, as well as directors Asha Safay, Joel Engardio and Matt Dorsey. , Catherine Stephanie and Myrna Melgar. Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Sherman Walton, Dean Preston and Connie Chan disagreed, with Peskin saying the decision was a “permanent rift that will not heal over time.” rice field. Supervisor Hilary Ronen was not present at the meeting. After the amendment was dropped, the board voted 9 to 1 in the original language, which Peskin opposed.

Another Planet spokesman David Perry called the decision a victory as the project advances to its next public hearing with the Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission on Thursday. The hearing will determine whether the Berkeley-based concert promotion company will receive the certificate. Making major changes to city landmarks done properly.

“Everyone who cares about the Castro Theater, the Castro District, and the films and LGBTQ programs that are part of both should be grateful tonight,” Perry told SFGATE on Tuesday. “Irreplaceable international icons have the capacity to be preserved, restored and evolved for present and future generations.”

Another Planet in April Community Benefit Package The Castro Theater has revealed details of its latest plans, pledging to dedicate approximately one-third of its programming to film screenings and film festivals, and at least 25% of its programming to host LGBTQ+ activism, artists and events. ing. Only 170 events are proposed at the venue per year, according to Perry, and that number could change or increase, citing LGBTQ and Many fear that the film-centric show is in dire straits.

People wear T-shirts and read books, "secure a seat" At a community meeting at the Castro Theater in 2022.

People wear T-shirts that read ‘Reserve Your Seat’ at a community gathering at the Castro Theater in 2022.

Courtesy of Jesse Oliver Sanford

Opponents of Another Planet’s plans remained disheartened and concerned about the theater’s future after Tuesday’s oversight board vote.

“The Castro Theater is a beloved landmark and an important community asset and should be treated as such,” Peter Pastreich, executive director of the Castro Theater Conservation Organization, told SFGATE in a statement. “Today’s vote shows the regulator’s willingness to allow San Francisco’s last movie theater to be desecrated so that for-profit entities can make more money, and the wider cultural significance of the Castro Theater. It shows a lack of understanding and we deeply regret it.”

Jeffrey Kuong, president of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club, also saw the decision as a setback.

“When the Castro Theater was first proposed as a landmark, Harvey Milk understood that a landmark is something that connects neighborhoods,” said Kwon. “Availability for the elderly, families, people with disabilities, people in all walks of life. That they must be considered in the context of history and cultural heritage, not economic opportunism. Voting today is fragile. It’s an escape from that feeling as a service to the companies that fueled divisions in our community at such a time.”

Inside the Castro Theater.

Inside the Castro Theater.

Mark Mainz/Getty Images

Stephen Torres, on behalf of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, did not express his disappointment, but remains determined to protect the theater’s legacy.

“The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District takes seriously its role in preserving our cultural and historical heritage, especially at a time when safe havens for the LGBTQ community, especially the most vulnerable, are disappearing. There is,” Torres said. “It is regrettable that the Oversight Board has not taken this opportunity to mandate proper stewardship of threatened community assets, but it should be addressed to a broader range of community actors seeking to ensure community self-determination. We will continue to support such cooperation.” We are grateful to the directors who have protected our position. “

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission are scheduled to hold a joint hearing Thursday at 10 a.m. to consider bills, certificates of adequacy, conditional permit applications, and other proposed theater changes by Another Planet. We may decide how far we can go with the plan. .

Details of the Castro Theater

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