Author Topic: Happy 90th Birthday Castro Theater!  (Read 7411 times)

Offline Shakesthecoffecan

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Happy 90th Birthday Castro Theater!
« on: August 04, 2012, 02:36:25 pm »


Abraham Nasser, who immigrated to San Francisco from Lebanon in 1899, lived with his family upstairs from their grocery store at the corner of 18th and Collingwood in what became the Castro district. In 1907, a year after the great quake and fire, a gent popped into the store and asked Nasser if he'd like to start a little business projecting moving pictures on a blank wall at the back of the store.

Nasser, who never learned English but had seven sons (five born in Lebanon) who did, said yes, and before long more people were coming in to watch flicks than to buy groceries. So was born the Nasser Brothers' Nickelodeon business, which opened in 1908 at the long-gone Liberty Theater at 18th and Collingwood and grew into a local movie-palace empire that included such ornate theaters as the Alhambra on Polk Street, the New Mission (on Mission, of course) and the crown jewel - the Castro Theatre, built in 1922 on the street some writer in the swinging 1970s called the Great Gay White Way.

This weekend, the Nasser family, which still owns the landmark theater, will play live music and screen classic movies to celebrate the 90th birthday of the glorious and invaluable Castro, a Spanish Baroque-style building designed by Moderne master Timothy Pflueger and updated in the 1930s with the Art Deco marquee, sunburst chandelier and famed neon sign.

They won't be showing the silent movie that opened the New Castro Theatre in grand style on June 22, 1922 - the town's fun-loving mayor, Sunny Jim Rolph, presided over the party - Paramount's "Across the Continent," a race-car movie whose dashing star, Wallace Reid, was strung out on morphine and died the following year in a sanitarium trying to kick the habit.

But paterfamilias Don Nasser and Castro programmer Keith Arnold have booked two beloved widescreen epics Sunday - "Citizen Kane" at 8 p.m., preceded by "Gone With the Wind" at 2 - a "Mary Poppins" sing-along at 2 p.m. Saturday and a 7:30 p.m. Saturday noir double bill, introduced by Noir City Film Festival director and writer Eddie Muller: "The Big Sleep" and "Where Danger Lives."

"There aren't many of these magic movie palaces left," says Nasser, 73, whose late father, Richard, brought him into the business when he was 13. He worked as an usher at the old Royal on Polk Street for 85 cents an hour (the old man made him bank it all). Nasser grew up watching movies at his family's theaters - which at one time included the spectacular Paramount in Oakland, the Deco masterpiece also designed by Pflueger - but took these places for granted until he was in his teens. Then he saw how beautiful they were.

"All the history begins to sink in. I remember sitting there in wonderment, looking at all the detail and beauty of the theater, " says Nasser, who recalls seeing "The Godfather" at the Castro years later and attending the star-filled 25th anniversary screening of the Francis Ford Coppola classic there in 1997.

Nasser, who owns the theater with his brother, Steve, and three sisters, Diana, Elaine and Susanna, is a passionate four-string banjo picker who is performing Dixieland jazz with Blackie Norton's Paradise Club Band featuring star banjoist Jack Convery at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Castro. Music is often heard at the renowned repertory cinema, where many prime keyboardists have played the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ - including the improvising artists who recently performed at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - and other musicians have performed.

In the age of the multiplex box, there's nothing like watching "Ben-Hur" in Ultra Panavision on the Castro's big screen (with intermission), or hearing the splendid pianist Dick Hyman, who arranges the music for Woody Allen's films, improvising organ accompaniment to a Buster Keaton comedy as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

On Sunday, before "Citizen Kane," the Castro's longtime resident organist, David Hegarty, will take a whirl on the Wurlitzer. On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., the New England Conservatory-trained soprano, Monique Argent Gannon, who happens to be Don Nasser's daughter, will sing classic show tunes and ballads.

"We've tossed in some additional entertainment," says Nasser, who loves "sitting in this beautiful theater with so much history and creative art. To know my family had something to do with building it is very rewarding."

The Castro Theatre: Live music and screenings of classic films. 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 29 Castro St., S.F. $8.50-$15. (415) 621-6120.

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Offline rockleefifa44

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Re: Happy 90th Birthday Castro Theater!
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2012, 08:59:35 am »
Thank you for Castro Theater

Offline Jameahan

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Re: Happy 90th Birthday Castro Theater!
« Reply #2 on: September 24, 2018, 11:23:05 pm »
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