Fear and anxiety after Subs Subs will no longer be the hallmark of Castro’s theater seats

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 on Tuesday to expand the Castro Theater’s historic designation to include its character-defining interior features and LGBTQ+ cultural significance — but not its orchestra-wide seating, which has been the subject of intense public debate.

Another company, Planet Entertainment, the theater’s current operator, is planning a $15 million overhaul that includes upgrades to the screen, dressing rooms, and ventilation system, as well as restoring old interior features such as the ceiling and chandelier. But Another Planet also wants to level the tattered stage floor and replace orchestra-level seating with tiered platforms of removable seating. Such a move has drawn fierce opposition from neighbours, filmmakers, nonprofit leaders and community activists, who argue it would irreparably change the character of the theater.

In May, a board committee approved an amendment that would give a notable designation to “fixed theater seating shaped in the style of a movie palace,” to include orchestra-level seating. The original language only protects “having seats”.

In the case, as queer public historian Gerard Koskovitch told SFGATE, the ambiguity in “having seats” could “represent any kind of seating at all” and might fail to protect existing seating at orchestra level, which he described as part of theatre’s intangible cultural heritage. LGBTQ.

Others, including longtime San Francisco resident Barbara Gersh, general commentator at one of the Castro’s recent hearings, argued that removing the seats would be “one final blow to a San Francisco movie culture that’s already teetering.”

But on Tuesday, a majority of the board voted against amendment language that would clearly protect orchestra-level seats. That group included Superintendent Raphael Mandelman, who initially introduced the legislation to expand the theatre’s prominence, as well as Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Joel Engardio, Matt Dorsey, Kathryn Stefani and Myrna Melgar. Moderators Aaron Peskin, Shaman Walton, Dean Preston and Connie Chan objected to the decision, and Peskin stated that the decision would be “a rift that will last and not heal for a very long time”. Superintendent Hillary Ronen was not present at the meeting. After the amendment was removed, the board voted 9-1 on the original language, with Pescaine in opposition.

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Another Planet spokesperson, David Perry, calls the decision a victory as the project moves to its next hearing Thursday with the Historic Preservation and Planning Commission, which will decide whether the Berkeley-based concert promotion company will receive a Certificate of Appropriateness allowing them to make significant changes to the project. the landmarks of the city.

“Everyone who appreciates the Castro Theatre, the Castro Neighborhood, and the film and LGBTQ programming that is a huge part of both should be grateful tonight,” Perry told SFGATE on Tuesday. “It has become an irreplaceable international icon now capable of preserving, restoring and evolving for this and future generations.”

In April, another planet a Community benefits package It details its latest plans for the Castro Theatre, which pledges to devote about a third of its programming to film screenings and film festivals, while at least 25% of its programming will commit to hosting LGBTQ+ activities, artists and events. With only 170 events proposed at the venue annually — a number subject to change or increase, according to Perry — many fear that the LGBTQ and film-focused programs that have been a part of Castro for decades are in tatters.

People wear “Save the Seats” T-shirts during a community meeting at the Castro Theater in 2022.

Courtesy of Jesse Oliver Sanford

Opponents of another planet’s plans remained frustrated and worried about the theater’s future after Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors vote.

“The Castro Theater is a beloved landmark and a vital asset to the community and should be treated as such,” Peter Pastrich, Executive Director of the Castro Theater Conservancy told SFGATE in a statement. “Today’s vote, which indicates the willingness of the overseers to see San Francisco’s last movie palace desecrated so that a for-profit organization can generate more profits, showed a lack of understanding of the broad cultural significance of the Castro Theater that we so regret.”

Democratic Harvey Milk Club President Jeffrey Kwong also considered the decision a step backwards.

“When the Castro Theater was first proposed for a landmark, Harvey Milk understood that landmark is about bringing neighborhoods together,” said Kwong. “That it be accessible to seniors, families, people with disabilities, and people from all walks of life. That it should be viewed in the context of history and cultural heritage, not in the context of economic opportunism. Today’s vote is a departure from that sentiment, in service of a company that has divided our community in a moment.” fragility.”

Inside the Castro Theatre.

Inside the Castro Theatre.

Mark Maines/Getty Images

Stephen Torres, speaking on behalf of the Castro LGBTQ Cultural District, didn’t mince words of his disappointment, but remained determined to protect the theater’s legacy.

“The Castro LGBTQ Cultural District takes seriously its role in preserving our cultural and historical heritage – especially in times when safe spaces for the LGBTQ community, especially our most vulnerable, are disappearing,” Torres said. “While we are disappointed that the Board of Supervisors did not take this opportunity to impose appropriate oversight on a threatened community asset, we will continue to support the broad coalition of community stakeholders as they seek to ensure community self-determination. We are grateful to the supervisors who have stood by our position.”

The city’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Commission will hold a joint hearing Thursday at 10 a.m. that could determine how far Another Planet would go in proposed changes to the stage, taking into account legislation, certification of suitability and conditional use license applications.

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