Castro Theatre renovations aim to preserve historic space, breathe new life into movie palace

Changes are coming to the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco.

The company that manages the venue said renovations are necessary to keep the theater running and that the theater will look similar even after renovations.

It said there's a lot of work to be done as it pivots to a multi-use venue.

An organ that rises up from underneath the stage will remain a staple according to Another Planet Entertainment, the company that took over management of the theater in January for the family who owns the theater and built it in 1922.

"As long as movies are part of the plan, I'm all for it.  I think it will be a new dawn for this theater," said organist David Hegarty who has played here for 44 years. He led the effort that built a new and bigger organ that will debut when the renovations are complete.

"We're going to tier four levels of the auditorium to accommodate standing room for concerts.  Some of the concerts will be standing room.  Some will be seated.  Film, of course, of course will be seated," said Mary Conde, Senior Vice President of Another Planet.

These seats will be replaced by removable ones.

The seats in the balcony will be stationary, but will likely be replaced by new ones.

The concession stand in lobby will be removed and replaced by a mobile one that will go in the main auditorium.

The beautiful accents including the murals, the ceiling  and the chandelier will remain.

"We're all going to bring it make to life.  We're going to clean it.  We're going to restore it, preserve it," said Conde.

"The audience haven't seen this for 70 years," said David Perry, Castro Theater spokesperson as he points to the frame of the stage that's been hidden behind the movie screen.

It will be restored so audience can enjoy it when the stage is used for live performances.

Preservation of this historic site extends to areas not seen by the public such as the basement.

"People who have been here for special events carved their names here," said Perry as he shows the walls of the basement.

Opposition to the renovation project and plans to host live concerts and other events are not the only challenge Another Planet has faced.

MORE: San Francisco movie goers urge new Castro Theatre owners to reconsider venue's future

There was a burglary at the theater Tuesday morning.

Police officers on foot patrol noticed a no trespassing sign missing and shattered glass from a broken front door.

They said they found three suspects inside.

Conde said since Another Planet took over two months ago, the box office glass has been broken three times including this burglary.

"It's not a frustration. Another Planet is moving forward getting the theater ready for another generation of live entertainment and audience, people who love films," said Perry.

Police have arrested three suspects in the break-in.

The Castro Theatre is preparing for some big events coming up including the San Francisco Film Festival, Frameline, the LGBTQ film festival and the theater's 100th anniversary in June.

If all goes as planned, the theater will close for renovations sometime during the first quarter of next year and reopen in the fall.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU