The controversy comes down to the raked theater floor and the Castro's traditional orchestra-style theater seating, which APE has proposed replacing with removable seats on multi-level, flat platforms more conducive to standing-room concerts. (The plans submitted to San Francisco's planning department look similar to the Fox Theater in Oakland, which APE helped restore and now operates.) [...]
"If they are able to flatten the floors and remove all of those seats, the building will no longer be suitable for film," Pastreich says. "They'll make it great for rock concerts and other events, and virtually unusable for all kinds of other things, particularly film."
Pastreich is the executive director of the nonprofit Castro Theatre Conservancy, formed in June, which opposes APE's floor plans. He admits that it's virtually impossible in the modern day to keep a large, single-screen movie theater running on movies alone, at least with a for-profit model. In 2020, he says, members of his group approached the owners of the theater -- Bay Properties, Inc., run by the Nasser family, whose ancestors built the theater in 1922 -- with a proposal to operate the Castro as a nonprofit, similar to the Roxie Theater in San Francisco or Film Forum in New York City. Instead, they made a deal with APE. [...]
Perry takes issue with the criticism that APE is a giant, corporate promoter that's out of step with the independent, community-focused history and spirit of the theater. (The company puts on the Outside Lands music festival every year, which in 2019 grossed $29.6 million.) Perry describes APE as a "small, local business" that "understands the Castro."
"lol" and "lmao", as the kids say.
Asked why APE couldn't simply keep the current seats -- and consider removing the first five to eight rows for concerts -- Perry defers to APE's experience, and their "good sense of what it takes to program a multi-use venue."
APE also has a good sense of what it takes to compete in the live music market. Their two direct rivals, Live Nation and Goldenvoice, operate multiple theaters and ballrooms in San Francisco: the Warfield (capacity 2,300), the Masonic Auditorium (3,481), the Fillmore (1,300), and the Regency Ballroom (1,400). APE, on the other hand, operates the small Independent (500) and the large Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (8,500), with no mid-sized options in between. So, in San Francisco, APE needs a venue like the Castro to stay competitive.
Update: Here's a report from the "community meeting" by Curtis Jensen:
Disturbingly APE is proposing a reliance on a 501c3 organization to cover cost overruns of more “community based” queer events (think Marc Huestis or Peaches Christ). The ape representative specifically articulated that the previous rental agreements for community-based events and any event at the Castro for that matter were “highly undervalued” meaning rental rates for a Peaches Christ event after any she already has standing agreement for may be out of her reach or require her to charge so much for tickets that large swathes of the community would no longer be able to attend her shows. Unless She and like promoters sought underwriting from a nonprofit to cover the raised costs. [...]
One of the meetings most unpleasant revelations was that APE has an exclusive ticket arrangement with Ticketmaster meaning all ticketing for any event, likely including any repertory film screening would have to be done through Ticketmaster and would include all of the famously exorbitant Ticketmaster handling fees, and their habit of holding tickets for “secondary market resale, which in the case of a movie ticket can double the movie ticket cost. [...]
Given the look of mere toleration and a clear barely-wanting-to-be-there attitude from the APE representative who answered most questions – usually with doublespeak and artful dodging, APE is not really interested in what any of us think. They were only going to explore options that aligned with what they want as a final result and there was no indication that they had any interest in incorporating or truly considering any of the community feedback.
This is my shocked face.
For what it's worth, there's a community town hall meeting this evening.
Given the state of the place under the owners, third generation down the line from the builders, who were trying to DIY programming and failing pretty hard, I'm worried that APE is going to back out, and the place will continue to decline.
How did that go?
Like this, apparently.
An exclusive deal with Ticketmaster, because of course.
Yeah, so pretty much as expected. Enjoy your "service fees"!
I don't live in San Francisco any more but if anyone mentions removing the pipe organ, I'll be there with a torch and pitchfork.
Good news/bad news: The guy who owned the previous pipe organ took it with him some time ago, but they recently crowdfunded a brand new one and still plan on installing it.
Now that APE is here, I assume the new one will be a Retina display Dolby Digital pipe organ "experience". Very selfie-friendly.