Golden Gate Express | The Castro Theater’s new management reflects the loss of queer culture at the Castro


The Castro LGBTQ+ Cultural District is currently researching and collecting data about the Castro neighborhood and the loss of its home community, LGBTQ+ people.

Another Planet Entertainment took over the Castro Theater on January 19, in the face of negative reactions from neighbors for no longer keep the tradition of the theater. This is another iconic LGBTQ+ landmark to leave in the hands of the community, following the loss of Esta Noche and The Stud.

While the Nasser family, owners of the Castro Theater, did not technically sell the theater, the potential change to it being live events only takes away from the tradition the theater has held for decades.

The theater has been a historic part of the neighborhood, serving as a hub for social life in the Castro. It is known for hosting LGBTQ+-focused film festivals and events throughout the year. The Gay Men’s Chorus has performed at the theater on several occasions. According to Another Planet, the takeover aims to revitalize the theater.

Jen Rek, professor in the SF State Department of Sociology and Sexuality Studies, working with the Castro Cultural District on a participatory action research project. She is a member of the Land Use Committee which studies changes like the takeover of the Castro Theater and its effects on the neighborhood.

“When things happen at the Castro Theater, it brings people in,” Reck said. “This foot traffic helps businesses thrive in the neighborhood.”

The Castro Cultural District is one of San Francisco’s eight cultural districts. The Board of Supervisors named these neighborhoods through legislation in hopes of preserving and promoting cultural history in neighborhoods that have experienced gentrification.

“We are what makes San Francisco special,” said Tina Aguirre, head of the cultural district of Castro.

Aguirre said they had lived in the Castro since 1987 and noticed there were fewer LGBTQ+ people today. They said there were more artists and people of color.

Reck explained that gentrification has been going on in the Castro since the 1990s, when housing prices rose, forcing many LGBTQ+ people to leave the neighborhood. Many died during the AIDS epidemic, causing these vacant units that were previously under rent control to enter the market at a higher price.

“Since the ’90s, a lot more heterosexuals have moved into the neighborhood,” Reck said. She also added that the Castro experienced something she calls “outright gentrification.”

According to Aguirre, apartments that previously housed four to six working-class LGBTQ+ people have now been purchased and can only accommodate two people, causing a loss in the community.

Alejandro Barrientos and Hanelye Mazariegos are SF State graduates who completed an internship at the Castro Cultural District last semester. They conducted surveys to find out how many businesses members of the LGBTQ+ community run themselves.

Barrientos said he asked businesses if they were gay-owned and had gay staff. They also asked if there were women and people of color employed.

Of 129 Castro businesses, 54% are non-LGBTQ+, but 72% have LGBTQ+ employees.

Last week, Aguirre met with the Office of Workforce Economic Development, a meeting convened by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. The discussion focused on retail vacancies and Aguirre presented the data that Barrientos and Mazariegos collected with them.

“If we are to preserve and promote LGBTQ+ culture, then this number must be strongly considered with any major fundraising initiative that responds to vacancies in the Castro,” Aguirre said.

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