Castro Theatre makeover includes new $1.1M cutting-edge organ

Exterior of The Castro Theatre, the venue for 65th SFFILM Festival Press Conference on March 30, 2022 in San Francisco, California.
Exterior of The Castro Theatre, the venue for 65th SFFILM Festival Press Conference on March 30, 2022 in San Francisco, California. Photo credit Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS RADIO) – The Castro Theatre's legendary organist David Hegarty will soon be receiving an equipment upgrade.

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The famed San Francisco movie palace, which partnered earlier this year with Berkeley-based entertainment company "Another Planet Entertainment" to run its programming, is set to add a new $1.1 million organ, which Hegarty claimed is the world’s largest hybrid organ, part pipes and part digital.

It will include seven keyboards and have the capability to sound like a classic theater organ, symphonic organ, classic organ or symphony organ, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The organ replaces the Wurlitzer organ, which had been on loan to the theater since the early 1980s and was removed several years ago by the private owner who moved out of the Bay Area. Hegarty, a part of the hallowed theater the last 44 years, has been playing a smaller organ in the time since.

As a result, Hegerty, 77, established a non-profit called the "Castro Symphonic Theatre Organ" to raise funds for a new, state-of-the-art organ.

The new instrument will "retain the familiar Wurlitzer sound using wind-blown pipes, and the pipes will be supplemented with digitally sampled organ and orchestral sounds to create an instrument of unparalleled capability," according to the organization's website.

The theater will close later this year while it undergoes a massive remodel and plans to reopen by summer 2023, which is when Mary Conde, vice president of Another Planet Entertainment, told the paper she hopes the new organ will also be ready by.

"We were interested in the Castro Theater because of its rich history and the traditions there," Conde said. "We never had any intention of taking away the organ. It's so important to the Castro Theater and to the community, and we want to do everything we can to maintain that."

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