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The cover of the Spring 2007 SF State Magazine features two penguins, heads bent together as they view their offspring on the ground below.

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Alumni & FriendsDon Nasser smiles for the camera, ornate wood and gilded details from the Castro Theatre provide a backdrop. Photo by Francis da Silva

Career Success is a Double Feature

Don Nasser (B.A., '63) points to a photograph of his grandfather, who opened the Castro Theatre in 1922. "I didn't have anything to do with it," he says, smiling. But Nasser has much to do with the historic movie theatre's continued success.

Last year, the longtime board member and part-owner volunteered to take over the theatre's management as president and CEO. The business grad has not only balanced the responsibility with running his real estate firm. Castro employees say Nasser has also improved the theatre's daily operations, programming and staff morale.

"There was a sense of enthusiasm missing," says Bill Longen, the Castro Theatre's events producer and coordinator. "Don brings a lot of common sense and business sense. We are doing things that needed to be done for a long time." The theatre has added a video projector, revamped projection equipment and refurbished its antique chandeliers. "Don has helped streamline things," Longen adds. "We justify everything we do -- we're not just booking films. Don gets into the ‘what and why.'"

The story of the Castro Theatre begins with Nasser's grandfather and sons, who left their native Lebanon in 1900 and relocated to San Francisco. They opened a small grocery store at 18th and Collingwood in the Castro District. In 1907, a visitor to the store explained he had a projector and a reel of film. He asked if he could set up a viewing area in the back. As Nasser explains, "People buying their groceries started paying a penny or two to see something that they had never seen: moving images."

The crowded back room inspired Nasser's family to jump into the then-burgeoning Nickelodeon business. After several initial theaters, they enlisted the expertise of the now-legendary architect Timothy L. Pflueger to design the ornate building on Castro at Market Street.

This year marks the Castro Theatre's 85th birthday and the Nasser family's centennial year in the film industry. The three-day celebratory program August 10-12 will include live music, a family sing-along with "The Wizard of Oz," and a screening of the silent film "The Phantom of the Opera," accompanied by the theatre's Wurlitzer organ.

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Last modified June 19, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications