Iconic Castro Theatre sign relit during Juneteenth block party, outdoor film screening

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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Iconic Castro Theatre sign relit during Juneteenth block party
The iconic Castro Theatre sign and marquee were relit as the community celebrated Juneteenth and the opening of the San Francisco International LQBTQ+ Film Festival.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In San Francisco, many gathered outside the Castro Theatre for a first-of-its-kind outdoor Juneteenth opening night film and block party.

The iconic Castro Theatre blade and marquee were relit as many celebrated the opening night of the San Francisco International LQBTQ+ Film Festival.

"So grateful for this opportunity to work with Frameline and celebrate the opening of their festival," said Mary Conde, Senior Vice President with Another Planet. "Showing the Lil Nas X documentary is a great way to kick off Juneteenth."

For more than 100 years, the Castro Theatre has been home to many films, but for the past for months it's been undergoing a complete restoration. Seeing its blade light up was a sign of progress for many in the district.

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"The thing about the blade sign is that it's bigger than this theater. It's even bigger than this neighborhood," said Conde. "It's a beacon of hope throughout the world."

In February, ABC7 News got to see inside the theater right before the work started. Now, the restoration is in progress with the conservation work happening in stages, first being the ceiling.

"We have a team of artisans working up there who are putting gold leads back on the ceiling, painting where the painting is chipped off and they are respiring the plaster that has fallen down," said Conde. "They are really bringing back the ceiling back to the way it was 100 years ago."

Then the stage restoration will happen, with the theater set to receive the largest organ in the world.

"We have to create an organ pit that is deeper than the current one," said Conde. "The organ will lift up from the stage. It's going to be amazing."

Another Planet Entertainment is behind the $15 million restoration that is projected to be finalized in the summer of 2025.

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In the meantime, the theater took the celebrations outside with an outdoor film screening and a block party that attracted many with picnic blankets to the closed off street.

"We really like Lil Nas so we thought it would be really great to see the film here and it's Castro so it's historic," said Salma Montes a film festival attendee.

"We were just talking about Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Day so I'm kind of celebrating that and I haven't been to the Castro in a while so it's nice to be here," said Gregory Tyesi a film festival attendee.

Businesses in the area are glad the blade sign is reminding people that the Castro is the place to be.

"So you know normally we would be worried that the street was closed off because it would hurt business but people have been out today. They have shopping, the energy has been fantastic," said Terry Asten Bennett, President of the Castro Merchants Association. "We are in desperate need of people to come back to the Castro and remember that the Castro is fun because the Castro is fun."

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