Success is a Double Feature
(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
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.
For more information: www.castrotheatre.com