Built in 1922, the Castro Theatre is a San Francisco Designated Landmark and one of the city’s best-loved and most flamboyant institutions. The exterior juxtaposes a cathedral-like plaster façade with a gauche box-office marquee and vertical neon sign; the interior is a lavish mash-up of art deco and baroque styles—think murals, chandeliers, gold-framed mirrors, and a Mighty Wurlitzer organ, whose ornate grilles frame the stage in the 1,400-seat auditorium.
The theater’s offerings are equally eclectic, from first screenings to classic reruns to sing-alongs to noir. It hosts lots of film festivals and special events, many with a gay or multicultural focus, and the stage has been expanded to accommodate live performances such as stand-up and cabaret. One of the few theaters from the Roaring Twenties that is still in operation, the Castro can accurately recreate the silent film experience because it can project custom frame rates.
There are matinees as well as evening performances, and frequent double-headers; check the website for details. The box office is cash only.