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Arts & Entertainment

Prominent film festival says auf wiedersehen to the Castro Theatre

The Castro Theatre’s marquee brags about the “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” premiere being located in San Francisco on March 20, 2022. The googley eyes are a reference to a joke in the film. | Camille Cohen

Since its beginning in 1996, the main venue of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the largest festival of contemporary German cinema in the Americas—has been the Castro Theatre. 

But it won’t be in 2023.

“The Castro Theatre wasn’t available for the Berlin & Beyond needs for our March 2023 festival,” said Sophoan Sorn, Berlin & Beyond festival director, in a statement. “We proceeded with a change of plans for venues this year, which includes the historic Roxie Theater, where we’ve held successful and memorable events in the past.”

Berlin & Beyond inquired about hosting it at the Castro, but was told that the theater would not be available at that time, said Steve Indig, who handles public relations for the festival. 

Even though Sorn was not explicit as to whether the festival’s departure was prompted by Another Planet Entertainment’s (APE) takeover of the Castro Theatre in January 2022, cinephiles have been fretting over the future of the historic movie palace given the change of hands, since APE’s music concert programming would require the removal of seats. 

"Gaybraham Lincoln" addresses the Historic Preservation Commission in City Hall. | Julie Zigoris/The Standard

San Francisco's Historic Preservation Committee voted to landmark the interior of the theater more than two weeks ago—a move that APE ultimately championed. Since the fixed seating is not part of the interior that is landmarked, APE hopes to move forward with their renovation plan that includes motorized, raked seating that can be adapted for a variety of uses.

APE, for its part, maintains that it is dedicated to continuing to offer film programs.

"From day one of Another Planet's stewardship of the iconic Castro Theatre, we have been committed to making it as fully accessible as fully as possible to the LGBTQ and film communities,” APE spokesperson David Perry said.

Film programming has not been occurring at the Castro due to the uncertainty caused by the ongoing hearings related to the theater, he added.

Since APE’s renovations to the Castro would not start until early 2024, APE has announced the opening of the Castro’s schedule to events from April 15, 2023, to the end of January 2024.

“Given the delays in our ability to begin vital renovations, we felt the only right thing to do was make sure that the Castro is fully used and operated this year,” Perry said, noting that the Castro will be the forever home of festivals like the San Francisco International Film Festival, the Silent Film Festival and the Frameline LGBTQ film festival.

Now in its 27th season, the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival has screened over 500 films from German-speaking countries to over 200,000 attendees. The festival ran last year at the Castro, when the theater was already under APE’s management.

But for 2023, you’ll find the German film festival at a different historic venue—the nonprofit Roxie, one neighborhood over in the Mission.