Traverse City Film Festival: Traverse City’s Clinch Park has been a hotbed of construction the past few months- a sleek new picnic pavilion, remodeled pedestrian tunnel, and children’s play area. Yet even after Clinch Park’s formal ribbon cutting ceremony at the end of June, work is still being done nearby on the old Con Foster Museum building.
With less than two weeks until opening night at the Traverse City Film Festival, the city’s newest movie theater is almost complete. Michael Moore, Film Festival Founder, formally announced the opening of a “second year-round movie theater in downtown Traverse City” in early June. The “Bijou by the Bay”, named like the movie theaters of the 1930’s and 40’s, will host both Film Festival favorites and movies year-round, while complementing the award-winning State Theatre only steps away.
While the State Theatre has its share of history, the long vacant Con Foster Museum has had its place on the West Bay waterfront for eighty years. The building itself is historic, constructed by President Roosevelt’s Civil Work’s Administration, yet what’s more fascinating is the name carved into the stone above the front entrance. Con Foster first came to Traverse City in 1917, as manager of the State Theatre (then called the Lyric Theatre). Not only was he “Traverse City’s first great theater manager”, but he also possessed meaningful local job titles like Head of the Chamber of Commerce, City Commissioner, and Mayor. Like today’s local leaders he had dreams of a thriving downtown and West Bay waterfront, as he initiated the cleaning up of Clinch Park decades ago. It’s fitting, then, that the once empty, wasted space is touching on both of his passions. The timeworn Con Foster is becoming a classy cinema and, in turn, adding a new dimension to the Clinch Park waterfront area.
In addition to the revitalization of an unused Traverse City building, there are many benefits to creating the Bijou for the modern moviegoer. As Michael Moore explains in his letter to Traverse City locals and potential donors, the new theater will enhance what the State Theatre has to offer. Currently at the State, films must be scheduled for five to six weeks- on the long side when visitors are eager to see new ones. Once the Bijou opens; however, movies will be able to be transferred from the State to make way for more.
Besides allowing for more movies to be shown overall, the Bijou will have some of its own showings. The Bijou is not limited by an old deed restriction, like the State, to only show films that have appeared on less than 200 screens nationwide, thus it will be a magical spot to watch the best Hollywood new-releases. At the same time, the intimate setting (the Bijou, with 170 seats, has about a third of the capacity as the State) will be ideal for local schools, smaller gatherings, and showings of lesser known documentaries and indies.
Michael Moore refers to the new Bijou as the State’s new “second screen”, but with its unique spot on Grand Traverse Bay and its own intriguing past, the “Bijou by the Bay” may just become a prominent Traverse City landmark in its own right.
To learn more about the "Bijou by the Bay" and to make a donation, visit www.anotherhundredyears.org.