Surely one of the most beautiful, deliciously old-fashioned cinemas in the world, the Castro was built in 1922 by legendary SF-based entrepreneurs the Nasser brothers. Its Spanish Colonial Baroque facade pays architectural homage to the nearby basilica of Mission Dolores (a location the eagle-eyed among you will recognise from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo).

The facade is stunning enough, but the auditorium really takes the breath away. The huge, chandelier-ceilinged 1407-seater space is luxurious and ornate. In front of the screen-shielding velvet red curtains sits a Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ that is played by a tuxedo-sporting chap pre-film, before sinking dramatically into the floor. The auditorium has a lovely, steep rake, ensuring good sight-lines for all. Beware of the echoey acoustics though; every cough, or seat snapping back into position, sounds like a thunderclap.


SF's Castro Theatre celebrates 90 years
Abraham Nasser, who immigrated to San Francisco from Lebanon in 1899, lived with his family upstairs from their grocery store at the corner of 18th and Collingwood in what became the Castro district. In 1907, a year after the great quake and fire, a gent popped into the store and asked Nasser if he'd like to start a little business projecting moving pictures on a blank wall at the back of the store.

Nasser, who never learned English but had seven sons (five born in Lebanon) who did, said yes, and before long more people were coming in to watch flicks than to buy groceries. So was born the Nasser Brothers' Nickelodeon business ...
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June 28, 2012


On Saturday, August 4 and Sunday, August 5, 2012, the Castro Theatre will kick off its 90th anniversary celebration with a weekend-long extravaganza of special events and repertory screenings honoring the storied history of the world-renowned movie palace.

Saturday, August 4 – Afternoon Program

Enjoy Live Barbary Coast Music by Blackie Norton’s Paradise Club Band, featuring Jack Convery at 1:00. Born in 1954 in Wichita, Kansas, Jack spent his childhood in Fresno, California. He learned how to play the banjo at the age of 12 and he paid his dues by attending festivals and performing at pizza parlors. He was the 1973 winner of the United Artist "Best Banjoist of Northern California." His success as an entertainer has brought him into the entertainment booking business. Other entertainers he has worked with include Ella Fitzgerald, Willie Nelson, The Temptations, Chris Isaak and others.

Blackie Norton’s Paradise Club Band

Followed by a screening of MARY POPPINS SING-A-LONG at 2:00, hosted by Laurie Bushman and Sara Moore. For those of you not yet converted, the MARY POPPINS SING-A-LONG is a screening of the classic Walt Disney musical in glorious Technicolor, complete with subtitles so that the whole audience can sing along! In addition to belting out the tunes, goody bags will be handed out to everyone and audience members can add to the fun by dressing up as a favorite character for the costume contest! MARY POPPINS stars Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns and Ed Wynn; directed by Robert Stevenson. (1964, full program runs approx. 160 mins, 35mm)

Saturday, August 4 – Evening Program

Enjoy a live concert by Monique Argent Gannon at 6:30. Since earning her Master's degree in Vocal Performance at New England Conservatory, Monique has gone to perform in various venues. She has been a featured performer with the North Carolina Theatre, Southern Appalachian Repertory Theatre, Kennedy Theatre, Temple Theatre, Burning Coal Theatre, and Theatre In The Park.

Her vocal concerts across the country have included appearances with the North Carolina Symphony, Solaris Chamber Orchestra, and Rochester Romantic Symphony. Monique premiered her one-woman show at the Rrazz Room in San Francisco in 2010. She opened for twice Grammy nominated singer Amy Hanaiali'l Gilliom at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2007 and will reappear at the Castro Theatre in August 4, 2012 to perform her new and improved one-woman show.

Monique has also done post-graduate work with the University of Miami in Salzburg, Austria, Oberlin College in Urbania, Italy and the Bay Area Summer Opera Theatre Institute in San Francisco. She has a thriving voice studio and works in conjunction with the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory. She is Creator and Artistic Director of MasterCamp, a summer arts program in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This will be followed by Bay Area film luminary Eddie Muller, the “Czar of Noir” and director of the Noir City Festival which is held at the Castro each January, hosting a double feature of noir classics:

THE BIG SLEEP at 7:30 Based on Raymond Chandler’s first novel, Howard Hawks’ famously incomprehensible masterpiece has Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe entangled in a blackmail scheme and with the smoldering dame Lauren Bacall, as well. This chronic hangover of a film is full of corruption, annihilation and effervescent humor. (1946, 114 min, 35mm). Plus, WHERE DANGER LIVES at 10:00. This perverse lovers-on-the-run yarn stars Robert Mitchum as an upstanding doctor led down the garden path by disturbed femme fatale Faith Domergue. Director John Farrow ratchets up the impending doom factor with moody performances and a captivatingly grim tone. (1950, 84 min, 35mm).

Sunday, August 5 – Afternoon Program

Enjoy a second live concert of Barbary Coast Music by Blackie Norton’s Paradise Club Band, featuring Jack Convery at 1:00.

Followed by a screening of the classic GONE WITH THE WIND at 2:00. Spectacle, history, and biography all collide in this mammoth, masterful rendering of the siege of Atlanta and the South’s hardships during the Civil War. Vivien Leigh won Best Actress for her role as the vixenish belle who instantly fascinates the roguish black sheep Clark Gable. Winner of multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Victor Fleming directed with uncredited work from George Cukor and Sam Wood. (1939, 226 min + intermission, 35mm)

Sunday, August 5 – Evening Program

Enjoy a 30-minute concert by David Hegarty on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ at 7:30. David became a staff organist at the Castro Theatre in 1978, after the original Robert Morton organ had been removed and before the current Wurlitzer was installed. A Conn 651 was being used in the '70s until the Taylor family provided the Mighty Wurlitzer that we enjoy today. When organist Elbert Lachelle retired in 1984, David assumed the position of senior staff organist. He plays nightly intermissions at the Castro.

Followed by a screening of CITIZEN KANE at 8:00. The story of the tumultuous personal and professional life of a newspaper magnate, Orson Welles' first film displays his genius, wit, imagination, and command of the medium to full advantage. Decades on, KANE remains unequaled for its dazzling cinematic inventiveness. Welles co-stars with Joseph Cotton, Dorothy Comingore, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloan and Agnes Moorhead. Photographed by Gregg Toland; music by Bernard Herrmann. (1941, 119 min, 35mm)

Tickets are available in advance via TicketWeb, or day of show at the Castro Theatre box office, 429 Castro Street. Ticket prices per program are $11 for adults; $8.50 for children and seniors. MARY POPPINS SING-A-LONG tickets are $15 for adults; $10 for children and seniors.

Continuing through the entire month of August, the anniversary line-up features a diverse array of films chosen to represent ten decades of cinematic history. Highlights include: From THE MALTESE FALCON to UNDER THE VOLCANO, a retrospective of director John Huston’s impressive oeuvre; Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with Bruce Conner’s CROSSROADS; Ang Lee’s groundbreaking BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN with Howard Hawks’ RED RIVER; F.W. Murnau’s silent giant SUNRISE with Tod Browning’s FREAKS; and Hitchcock’s spellbinding VERTIGO in 70mm.


Best Of Award
Best Film Programmer 2012 - Keith Arnold
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