‘Everyone Were in Tears’: Your Memories of Movies, Joy and Community at the Castro Theater

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Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki at the Castro was the most incredible cinematic experience of my life. The energy was amazing, and I remember how the Japanese speakers were laughing before the people reading the subtitles caught up. A representative from Studio Ghibli was there, I think it was [Toshio] Suzuki, and I hope he came back and told Miyazaki how much the audience loved his movie. — Anonymous

‘Fantasia’, 1979. The organist played first, then the movie started, and my date pulled out a joint! I had never tried marijuana before – I’m sure it “altered” my movie experience! — Anonymous

The interior of the Castro Theater in San Francisco on August 10, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

I’ve spent so many nights at the Castro over the decades, but one of the most memorable was a screening of “Milk.” Cleve Jones was there with others from production and those who briefed him. Those of us who remembered Harvey Milk were in the audience wondering if Sean Penn’s portrayal would fit.

Near the end of the film, there was a scene showing the candlelight march after the assassination going down Market St. from the Castro. Everyone in the theater was in tears. Me included.

A room full of strangers gathered in this space, feeling the same emotions. The Castro Theater was the center of our experience. It was a moment for our community and in our lives that I will never forget.Fred Bove

When the director’s cut of “Blade Runner” [1992] went out, I went alone to see him at the Castro. The rain was just beginning when I entered the beloved, slightly shabby red and gold Art Deco interior. I had seen the original version and some video versions; the subtle changes in this cut made it even more captivating.

My head full of neon lights and rain, and the Bradbury building where Roy and Pris met their ends, I walked out of the theater to find the sky open and pouring, light and reflections everywhere, water pouring over my trench coat as I walked up Castro Rue. My favorite moment of immersive cinema.Alana Dill

The facade of the Castro Theatre, taken from below.
The Castro Theater in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco on July 28, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

In the 1970s and 1980s, it was wonderful to sit in the Castro Theater, enjoy the Art Deco art and listen to the organ player before the retro movies started. Above all, we savored the feeling of what it must have been like in a bygone era. Seeing the stage intact under the screen, even though the stage was no longer in use, allowed me to imagine what a burlesque room must have been like, and how the audience in the early days of cinema must have felt, experienced the transition from burlesque to film entertainment.

In our present time, we are again in transition, but if we were to drastically change the Castro Theater, we would never be able to truly preserve the full legacy of showbiz and we would not be able to physically relive its former eras. . If the theater cannot be profitable, let us establish a fund to subsidize it as we would any major museum or archive.Marti Schoen

Good. I don’t remember what movie it was, but I had sex once on the balcony, which I’m pretty proud of now! Probably the favorite cinematic experience was “Wuthering Heights”. And of course many Frameline tours. — Anonymous

The proscenium of the Castro Theatre, taken from below.  The lighting is purple and gold.
The proscenium of the Castro Theater in San Francisco on August 10, 2022. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

As a child growing up in the Castro (born 1944), my wife spent Saturdays at the theater. Twenty cents to get in, a penny for candy and two movies, news, soap operas, cartoons. A day’s worth of entertainment. Family evenings on the balcony. Lots of memories, all good.rose pod

Highlight: “Nights of Cabiria”, Fellini’s great film, with a beautiful copy, maybe eight years ago. The entire audience, filled, almost held their breath at the end.

Community Moments: Lost Landscapes of San Francisco. The first “BAHFest” (Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses) in a science festival. Realizing in an “aha!” when the Jewish Film Festival was where I met everything my Jewish acquaintances and friends if I attended enough shows. — David Grosoff

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