Thursday, March 3, 2011

Castro Theatre.


The Castro Theatre was built in 1922 by the Nasser brothers.  The Castro was built at a cost of $300,000.

Timothy L. Pflueger

The Nasser brothers chose Timothy L. Pflueger (1894-1946) to design the theatre.  Pflueger went on to become a famous Bay Area architect. Pflueger chose an exterior design reminiscent of a Mexican cathedral. 

Example of a Mexican cathedral.

The large windows, the shape of the roof line of the front wall of the building and the plaster wall decorations all combine to convey a look of grandeur in keeping with the large scale of many theatres built in the 1920s. 

Castro Theatre, 1922.

The glazed tile street foyer, ornate tent-like box office and the wooden doors are all from the early 1920s.  The Castro's interior is very diverse. One can sense Spanish, Oriental and Italian influences. The auditorium seats over 1400 in a fantasy setting that is both lavish and intimate. Both side walls of the auditorium are covered with classic motif murals which were created in a wet plaster process called scrafitto. This type of wall decoration is rare.

Interior of the Castro Theatre, 1922.

The mezzanine and balcony above it are reached from the lobby by two dramatic staircases which are highlighted by large mirrors framed in gold. Hanging on the walls of the mezzanine are rare film posters. The mezzanine with its elegant older pieces of furniture is often used for film-related receptions and other parties.


Castro Theatre.

The marquee and vertical neon sign were added in the late 1930s.  On either side of the stage and screen (the small original screen has long ago been replaced with a large screen) are large organ grills.  The Art Deco chandelier dates from 1937 when a small electrical fire destroyed the original parchment fixture.

Interior of the Castro Theatre.

From 1922 until 1976 the Castro showed first and second run mainstream films. Then, in 1976, the theatre was leased to Surf Theatres and later to Blumenfeld Theatres.  These two chains proceeded to change the exhibition format to repertory cinema, foreign films, film festivals and special first run presentations.


In 1982 the theatre's old Conn organ was replaced by a mighty Wurlitzer organ.  Ray Taylor and his sons Dick and Bill began assembling the all-Wurlitzer pipe organ in 1979.  The Taylors had to obtain parts for the organ from many different sources.  For example, the console came from a theatre in Detroit.

2001 - Present.

Interior of the Castro Theatre.

When the last lease expired on July 31, 2001, the Nasser family again took over operation of the theatre. Under their direction substantial improvements were made to enhance and preserve the beauty and functionality of the theatre.
Improvements included the installation of new, larger and more comfortable seats on the main floor and balcony, the stage was expanded to accommodate live performances, a new curtain and a new screen were installed, the entire theatre was recarpeted, the walls were painted and the candy counter was updated.  Additionally, sound quality was improved with installation of new speakers behind the screen.  New stage lighting was installed and the theatre received a new PA system.  The auditorium was wired to accommodate modern audio and video presentations.


frontdeskblog said...

Wow, just wow. I am just as impressed by all of the research that you did as I am at the actual story. It's wonderful to see the castro theater in it's original intended glory. It's beautiful.

Christopher Selland said...

This is an incredible piece. Very detailed information and great pictures! This is such a magnificent work of architecture. I remember the first time I went to the Castro I was stunned by the enormity of the place. It's kind of like a gilded 1920s entertainment cathedral.

Alexandra said...

Talk about a building worthy of a blog post! The Castro Theater seems to deserve its own blog, actually. This theater is breathtaking, and I didn't know a thing about its rich history. After reading your post, I'm imagining its past, especially the music of the old organ it used to house.

The first time I went to the Castro Theater, I felt something. I felt encompassed by a wise, beautiful old building. I remember how my heart swelled when the organ started to play.

Your post was very informative and I feel compelled to visit the theater this very moment, especially to check out the scraffito-ed walls. Thanks for illuminating this magical building!

davwhass said...

Hmm, I have never even been to the Castro Theater let alone know any of its history. But it is certainly a gorgeous theater. It looks like you did lots a research for these blog posts. Where are you finding all of this information?