Monday, August 27, 2007

See a movie at the Castro Theater

Contrary to what you might think, the pink neon CASTRO sign that is visible from higher points around the city is not, or at least was not originally intended to be, a homing beacon for lost homosexuals separated from the queen mother ship. While it may occasionally serve this purpose, its principal function is to advertise a movie house built in the grand style of a bygone era.

The cavernous auditorium seats a total of 1400 people on the ground level and in the balcony, and is crowned by an Art Deco chandelier that resembles a jellyfish, a missile or an alien ship from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

A Wurlitzer pipe organ--the city's only regularly played theater organ, according to the American Theater Organ Society--plays before most shows, with the player and console popping up from beneath the floor in front of the stage and screen.

The Castro Theater was designed by Timothy L. Pflueger and built in 1922. Pflueger, who was raised in the Mission, designed a number of other movie houses in the Bay Area, including the amazing Paramount Theater in Oakland.

He also designed a number of other buildings, including the first major skyscraper in San Francisco (140 New Montgomery)

and the Medical and Dental Building at 450 Sutter.

The Castro Theater is located on Castro Street, between Market/17th and 18th. A program schedule is available on the theater's website. (Thanks to Jim at for the interior pics of the Paramount.)

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