The 100-year-old theater, known throughout the world as one of the symbols of San Francisco's historic LGBTQ Castro neighborhood, will be renewed as a live events venue with music, comedy, film and more as Another Planet Entertainment takes over its programming.
The Berkeley independent [sic] concert promotion company -- which promotes hundreds of local concerts annually at venues like Berkeley's Greek Theatre, the Fox Theater in Oakland and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, as well as co-produces the Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park -- has signed a long-term contract, with plans to [...] broaden the programming at the 1,400-capacity venue to include live music, comedy and community events. The Castro will still screen select films, but the changes are sure to be earthshaking for many Bay Area film organizations and movie fans who have been filling the Castro for decades.
"It's heartbreaking, devastating, and not surprising," said Marc Huestis, who has presented special events at the Castro Theatre for 40 years. [...] "Even before COVID, it was like repertory theater was kind of on its last legs," Huestis continued. "It makes me very emotional because it's just such an important cultural institution and the heartbeat of not only the neighborhood but of the city."
As a fan of both old movies and live music, one might expect me to feel conflicted about this. While losing another repertory movie theatre is awful, gaining another live music venue should be good, right? But, no, this is just another tragedy. Understandable, perhaps, but still tragic.
I don't understand how anyone gets away with calling Another Planet an "independent" company, unless your definition of "independent" is "not publicly traded". I guess NIVA defines "independent" as "anyone who is not Live Nation or AEG", but the reality is that Another Planet are the short leg of the corporate triad who monopolize the live music scene in the Bay Area and beyond.
It's true that APE is the smallest of the three, and they're "local", but they have the same business model as Live Nation and AEG: anti-competitive lock-in through vertical integration and festival radius clauses. They're still monopolists, they're just smaller.
And even though whatever kind of live music they end up doing at The Castro won't be the sort of thing that we do at DNA Lounge -- we're not a "1,400 capacity all-seated" kind of place -- this sort of corporate consolidation hurts all of us small businesses who are actually independent, because it increases APE's monopoly power.
As I explained in detail back in 2018, monopolies are bad. They are bad for consumer choice, they are bad for ticket pricing, they are bad for artists getting paid, they are bad for your local music scene, and they are bad for our culture as a whole.
But as with Slim's (RIP) and Mezzanine (RIP), it's hard to fault the Castro's owners for taking whatever Faustian bargain is offered. It's grim out there.