Downtown Traverse City Welcomes New Bijou by the Bay Theatre

Traverse City Buzz: Michael Moore writes on the newest project downtown—a second year-round movie theatre to open July, 29 just before the Traverse City Film Festival. The theatre will inhabit the vacant 80-year-old Con Foster Museum in Clinch Park and welcomes a long list of opportunities for the film-lovers of Northern Michigan. Read Michael’s letter for the details:

Friends,
I have some great news for you:

We at the Traverse City Film Festival are going to open a SECOND year-round movie theater in downtown Traverse City! And we need your help.

We’ve talked for a while about adding a second screen to the State Theatre. We need it. Sometime within the next month we will sell our ONE-MILLIONTH ticket at the State! That’s right—one million people have passed through the doors of the State Theatre since it opened 5 1/2 years ago. For a town of 16,000 year-round residents, this is nothing short of incredible.

So, due to this overwhelming response to the State, we’ve asked the City Commission—and they have granted us — permission to renovate and bring back to life the 80-year-old (and long-vacant) Con Foster Museum, which sits behind the State Theatre on the beach in Clinch Park.

We will restore the Con Foster—originally built by President Roosevelt’s Civil Works Administration—with the same loving care and with the same team that resurrected the State Theatre in 2007.

And because it sits on the shores of our beautiful Grand Traverse Bay, we have decided to call this new theater the “Bijou by the Bay.” The Bijou (pronounced “BE-zhu,” the French word for “gem”) was a popular name for movie theaters in the 1930s and 1940s and we think it fits this new venue quite well.

The Bijou by the Bay will be a unique and wonderful place to see a great movie. We want to begin the renovation this week, and we plan to have our Grand Opening on July 29—the night before the beginning of this year’s Traverse City Film Festival!

Here are a few ways the Bijou is going to enhance the moviegoing experience in northern Michigan—and make things better for the State Theatre, too:

Right now, as you know, due to an old deed restriction, we cannot show any movie at the State that opens on more than 200 screens across the country. This means we can’t show most of the big films released by Hollywood.

The Bijou, on the other hand, will have NO such restrictions —so we will be able to open ANY first run movie. What a relief! No longer will we have to wait for a movie like “The Hunger Games” to come out on DVD. We will now be able to get it on opening weekend.

Another good thing about having this second screen is that, instead of being contractually obligated to hold a film over at the State for 5 or 6 weeks, we will be able to move it over to the Bijou so we can get more new films in to the State.

The Bijou will also let us do programs that are better suited for a theater smaller than the State’s 540 seats (the Bijou will have 170 seats). This means more foreign movies, more documentaries, more obscure (but great) works, more classics. We can also do more programs for students and local groups. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

So how are we going to pay for this? Well, this is where you and I come in. When we wanted to restore the State Theatre, Buzz Wilson and his family were the “angels” who wrote the first check. The Milock family, myself, Kathleen Glynn, and four others joined in as matching angels, and the community brought us to the finish line by sponsoring seats and becoming members of our new theater. We did not use any tax dollars and we did not run a big fundraising campaign.

Today, in order to bring this new theater to life, Richard and Diana Milock have remarkably stepped forward again to be our main financial angels. They have written a donation check of a quarter million dollars! This alone will cover one-third of the costs of the renovation.

And now, in order to pay for the other two-thirds of bringing to life this beautiful theater on the water, we are going to need help from you.

We need to raise, from our remarkable community of supporters, around $500,000—and we need to raise it now so we can open the theater in time for the film festival. Will you join in today and become one of the founding donors of the new Bijou theater?

We’re making it easy for you to help build the Bijou, with whatever resources you have, big or small. Here’s how you can help:

Become a Bijou Founder: I am asking for five Founders to step forward and jointly match Richard and Diana —five people who can pledge $50,000 and be forever named on the building as the Founders of the Bijou by the Bay. If you have the means to join the Milocks in making it possible for us to open Traverse City’s second downtown movie theater, please give me or Deb a call today at 231-392-1134.

And there are other ways to help, even if you don’t have the ability to give $50,000!

Seat Sponsors: Just like with the State, if you give a thousand dollars or more, a plaque with your name (or someone you’d like to dedicate it to) will go on one of the new seats inside the Bijou.

Donate Any Amount: We’ve made it easy to make a contribution of any amount. You can simply click here to donate online, or stop in to the State Theatre any time to pick up a donation form. We’ll be thanking our donors in this year’s Traverse City Film Festival program guide and web site.

Sponsor the Marquee, the Popcorn Machine and More: If there is something you particularly love about movie theaters and would like to help the Bijou get that thing, please contact us. We’d love to tell you our plans and talk to you about costs for various aspects of the theater.

Our incredible community of supporters has continued to step up and support the projects of the film festival and the State over the years by making donations for things like putting new theater seats inside Lars Hockstad Auditorium, replacing the crumbling exterior of the State Theatre, and purchasing a badly needed digital projector.

This time your donation will dramatically improve moviegoing in northern Michigan and, at the same time, it will help reopen a wonderful old Traverse City building for public use, improve the waterfront park, and help make the State Theatre stronger and more sustainable.

So, if you love this idea, and you want to be part of the original group that creates this movie theater, please don’t hesitate in pledging your donation today. Click here to contribute or send your donation to TCFF, PO Box 4064, Traverse City MI 49685.

I’m posting my donation right now. Join me!

Most sincerely, Michael Moore

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Article Comments

  • Nepote

    I don’t believe the City Commission has the authority to give away parkland and the buildings which stand on it. This property belongs to the people of Traverse City, and for any project of this scope, the citizens should vote. Many people are not happy with the Bay Front project, and don’t feel the city should enable Michael Moore’s Film Festival to compete with privately owned theaters in any way. Anyone who would like to stop the city by means of a petition demanding a public vote contact me at [email protected]..

  • Anonymous

    Dear ab315, as much as I dislike Michael Moore, I give him a lot of credit for helping revitalize downtown TC, as for the Con Foster, no one else has shown any interest in the structure, of a willingness to put forward the money to bring it about, the big movie houses charge an arm and a leg to see the movie, and rape you over the coals on popcorn and pop, I have come to enjoy an evening out at the State theater, at a modest price, and welcome the addition of a second screen in downtown, it’s my parkland also! Ricko

  • Ricko

    Dear ab315, as much as I dislike Michael Moore, I give him a lot of credit for helping revitalize downtown TC, as for the Con Foster, no one else has shown any interest in the structure, of a willingness to put forward the money to bring it about, the big movie houses charge an arm and a leg to see the movie, and rape you over the coals on popcorn and pop, I have come to enjoy an evening out at the State theater, at a modest price, and welcome the addition of a second screen in downtown, it’s my parkland also! Ricko