Comments from August

Showing 8 comments

August commented about Coronet Theatre on Feb 12, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I saw the first morning screening of STAR WARS on opening day in 1977, and came back 24 times. At least. Saw many, many great movies there over the years, and some not so great. Every time I pass where this theater once stood, I get a little angry. But, I was glad to be one of four school kids who skipped classes to see STAR WARS with about twenty-five Senior Citizens, at the legendary Coronet Theatre that day!

August commented about Castro Theatre on Mar 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm

Loutheatres said, “…despite the controversy over Monga’s firing, they still do great programming.”

There was no “controversy”; Monga butted heads with the owners of the theater, and they let her go. The rumors that flew in the media came from a case of sour grapes, and other wild claims were unfounded. Monga recently worked with the Castro to present NOIR CITY 5 (she’s the programming director). So, I guess the “controversy” leveled at the theater was all for naught? Anyhow, the Castro Theatre is doing better than ever — and the last couple of times I was there, I wish I hadn’t dressed so warmly (since it was so crowded) it got stuffy.

Besides, lots of really progressive and interesting things are in store this year!

August commented about Castro Theatre on Oct 6, 2006 at 8:39 am

While that may be true, I have no reason to doubt your story, but I do doubt the story of the Blumenfeld’s painter. First, we would need to verify if this “restoration” actually occurred – otherwise, it is simply hearsay. But, with that being said, the Castro still stands head and shoulders above the sea of multiplexes in San Francisco – since all of the other “old time” theaters are rapidly disappearing, and soon, only the Castro will be left standing. We shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. But, rest assured, the Nassar family has great plans for maintenance and renovation for the old girl.

Don’t forget the Castro’s Halloween Horror Film Festival, SHOCK IT TO ME!, October 27-29 2006

August commented about Castro Theatre on Sep 20, 2006 at 8:55 am

The link to the Castro Theatre is dead, the current and correct link is

August commented about Castro Theatre on Sep 20, 2006 at 8:50 am

I wouldn’t say that the Castro Theatre is at all “tarnished”; I have spent a lot of time in this cinema as a fest producer/organizer, and on the contrary, the Castro is a very clean, well-kept venue. In the 1970s and 1980s I heard that it was becoming run down (I remember seeing SEVEN SAMURAI there in 1981/82 and don’t remember much about the theatre), but after 60 years, what wouldn’t be?

Conversely, in the last several years, having been there both day and night — for several days in a row — I haven’t experienced or seen anything that was falling apart or fraying around the edges. The Castro is a working theater, and to close it for that kind of extensive cleaning of the ceilings would be cost-prohibitive, to say the least. The cost of maintaining the archival projectors, alone, is astronomical. Keeping the films running and the sound system working, are probably the two elements that most patrons take for granted, but are the most important things to insure that any cinema stays open and viable.

With that being said, the Castro has already replaced all of the carpeting and many of the seats (all on the floor, and a majority of the balcony â€" some of the seats in the balcony were kept original to preserve the historic aspect). They are always looking at what needs to be done to improve the presentation of the films â€" which are always changing, sometimes from day to day â€" and how they can better serve their patrons. Expect some more improvements to the Castro over the next year.

Against common sense, I have spent a large portion of my life in San Francisco cinemas, from the industry screening rooms to fleabags like the defunct Strand — I’ve seen them all — and the Castro Theatre is hardly “tarnished”. If people would like to see the theatre make better and more aggressive restoration, the best way they can do this is to patronize the Castro as often as possible. The more the theatre earns at the box office and concession, the more the Nassar family will invest back into their theater.

August commented about Warfield Theatre on May 6, 2006 at 10:51 pm

Ah, the Warfield Theater… It brings back memories of seeing monster movies as a kid back in the 1970s. When the Warfield originally started to host live music in the 1980s, the theater seats were all still there, and the security tried to keep us little punk rockers in our seats — “I’m not staying seated for Siouxsie & The Banshees, no way!” (I also saw DEVO there on New Year’s ‘83 or '84). I lived in Tokyo during the mid-to-late 1980s, and when I returned, the seats were taken out of the auditorium and it was turned into a short-lived nightclub called “Downtown”.

When they folded — they must have lost their shirts on the work they did to the venue — it was leased by Bill Graham Presents, who had just closed down Wolfgang’s (formerly “Dance Your Ass Off, Inc.”) in North Beach, due to a “suspicious” fire. Bill must have invested in the Warfield around this time, and was a silent partner in another live music venue, Slim’s in the South of Market district. Legally, Boz Skaggs was the owner on paper, since BGP was under investigation by the SFPD concerning the Wolfgang’s fire. You can fill in the blanks from there.

Anyhow, I did Security for BGP at the Warfield from ‘92 to '93, and was working the night of the Rodney King Riots on Market St. — why were we even open? It was sheer madness. We saw several people being jumped, booted and otherwise assaulted right in front of the Warfield! Even my roommate at the time, Nanda, was jumped — she went down there to apply First Aid to the injured, and that’s the thanks she got. Guess who was playing that night? Jerry Garcia.

In the words of William Shatner from AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL, “Irony can be pretty ironic, sometimes.”

August commented about Castro Theatre on May 6, 2006 at 6:57 pm

The Castro Theatre is magnificent, and as a SF native, I have gone there many, many times over the years. I will say that current Events Promoter/Producer Bill Longen obsesses over the prints they get, but sometimes distributors send garbage, and it’s too late. I was the programmer for both GODZILLAFEST and SHOCK IT TO ME! at the Castro Theatre, and while I worked with Anita on the former, both of them were easy to work with and very cool. We came to Anita with three days of Godzilla films, and she expanded it to five, then seven — even I thought that was crazy, but it worked and the show was a resounding success.

For SHOCK IT TO ME!, Bill was not only adamant about getting the best prints possible, as he is with everything they book for the theater, but also the best film selection possible. Sony’s print of THE COMEDY OF TERRORS was fading (it’s was all that was available), but the prints of HOUSE OF USHER and DR. PHIBES were STUNNING, as were the prints of VAMPIRE LOVERS, REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, CURSE OF THE DEMON and THE HAUNTING. You can’t expect perfection in 40 year-old Horror Films that the distributors hardly care about, but we got close.

Working together with us, Bill brought some great ideas to the table, and felt as though we were one big family. As a result, SHOCK IT TO ME! also was a success, and it was an absolute pleasure (and a privilege) to work with the staff and management of this great movie palace. I am looking forward to continuing for as long as they’ll have us.

Since he came aboard at the Castro, Bill has booked in some crazy stuff (and let us run amok, too) — was anyone there in the PACKED house for the colorized PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE screening recently? Yes, an Ed Wood film packed the 850-seat floor. Simply amazing what a little solid PR can do for an awful film. LOL. Believe me, it was a night that was hilarious and just felt damned good. I’d rather see programming like this, than anything in French — just kidding.

But, fear not (or maybe you should), there’s more cool programming in the pipeline (Bill is plotting and planning), and we are booking films (and guests) for the triumphant return of SHOCK IT TO ME! for the 2006 Halloween Season. Thanks for all those who attended last year, and those who left kind comments on this page. This year’s show will be bigger (two weekends) and twice as ugly! Thanks again and stay tuned…

¡Viva Castro Theatre!

August commented about Grand Theatre on May 6, 2006 at 9:43 am

I must heartily thank the darkened cinema I spent the better part of my childhood in: Long live the remarkable Grand Theater! Fortunately, I grew up to be a pretty well adjusted guy, and even dated girls, despite my love for Horror Films and Monster Movies (it didn’t do bad for Kirk Hammet of Metallica, either). During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Grand Theater (on Mission St. @ 23rd St. in San Francisco) specialized in Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy films and nothing else! As a grammar school-aged monster maven, I was there for every new Triple Feature, which changed every Wednesday. I recall that admission was a mere 50¢ for Children — hell, I’d pay $15 to see some of those triple features in the darkened Grand again.

The Grand booked first, second and third run films, and I sat through a great majority of them, and the place was like church to me. Even as a little boy, I often wondered why the other kids ran around and talked during the screenings (“Hey, the movies are running, people!”), so I generally avoided weekend or holiday matinees — sometimes getting my Mother or Aunt to take me on school nights (“No kids!”). GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, THE SKULL, HERCULES AGAINST THE MOON MEN, THE WONDERS OF ALADDIN, GHIDRAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER, and more, all haunted me there.

The Grand acted as a larger than life supplement to Bob Wilkins' “Creature Features” on KTVU Channel 2 , and was part of my regular monster movie diet. When the mid-‘70s Kung Fu movie boom knocked the Horror Boom out of its throne, The Grand was the showcase for Chop Sockey triple features and the admission went up to 75¢ for Children (Oh, the humanity!). Guess what? I went with the tide. Somewhere in the late 1970s, the Grand changed again — this time it becoming a showcase for Filipino films. After that, I lost track of the Old Girl, and was shocked when I returned to my old neighborhood (I still live in San Francisco) only to find that it was gutted to house a Chinese junk shop. To paraphrase Vincent Price from THE COMEDY OF TERRORS: “Is there no morality left in this world?”

Today, I am trying to emulate the feel of the old Grand Theater triple features with a series of Halloween Horror Movie programs at the historic Castro Theatre called SHOCK IT TO ME! Long live the memories of The Grand Theater!

August Ragone