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Film Fans Tell New Castro Theatre Managers To Keep It Reel

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- Film lovers worried about the Castro Theatre being operated under a new management company showed up at the famed movie palace on Sunday to demand that classic cinema be a part of the landmark's future as well as its past.

"I've been coming to the Castro Theatre for decades, for the silent film festival, the film noir festival and we want to see that continue," said Michael Petrelis, who organized the "speak-out" in front of the theatre Sunday afternoon. "I am very nervous that Another Planet is a live music event producer. They do not have a history of film programming."

Another Planet Entertainment announced Wednesday that it had partnered with the owners of the Castro, Bay Properties, Inc., to renovate the venue and refocus on live entertainment. Petrelis and others are worried about a concert promoter overseeing events at a site that has showcased films for a century.

"The Castro is one of the most important cultural institutions remaining in San Francisco and it's personally very important to me," said Allen White, a filmmaker and film teacher who signed a note placed on the theater.

Others wrote messages of support for movie programming to continue at the Castro and attached them to the theater. Some wrote in chalk on the sidewalk. Supporters on the street Sunday said the Castro Theatre is not just a pillar of the local film scene but also a historic site for the LGBT community.

"It is the great baby sister for 100 years of the Castro neighborhood. This is a history that is filled with division, this is the theater that helped glue that community together," said Russell Merritt, standing outside the theater. Merritt is a film historian and gives tours around San Francisco. "This theater really needs an overhaul and certainly the money coming in will make it possible to restore the Castro to its glory. It's a mess right now."

The upgrades Another Planet Entertainment announced have some hopeful that the new operator could modernize the Castro while still maintaining the tradition of repertory movie screenings and other programs important to cinephiles and the LGBT community.

"They recognize that, I think, they're taking on responsibility for a really important institution," said District 8 supervisor Rafael Mandelman. "They do offer tremendous resources, the ability to invest in a theater that now has gone for decades without the investment to make it accessible, useable and an even greater space."

KPIX tried to get in touch with Another Planet Entertainment for reaction to the "Speak-Out" but had not heard back as of Sunday evening. The company did acknowledge the history of the theater both for cinema and the neighborhood in a statement posted online.

"The Castro Theatre is an icon of the LGBTQ community, a treasured space for film, music and live performance and a wonderful building that we will upgrade for more use in the future," Another Planet CEO and co-founder Gregg Perloff said on the company's website.

The statement went on to say the company has a record of working to preserve historic buildings around the Bay Area.

But some of those gathered on Sunday say those improvements came with a change in programming at those venues.

"We love this theater, we want all kinds of entertainment here," Petrelis said.

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