Bijou by the Bay: Be a Part of History!

Conrad H. Foster

Conrad H. Foster

You’ve no doubt heard about the Traverse City Film Festival‘s efforts to transform the Con Foster Museum, located in Clinch Park next to West Grand Traverse Bay, into a second year-round movie theater in downtown Traverse City. That’s awesome.

It’s not only an awesome addition to the area in terms of movies, but it pays homage to a great historical building and one of our first cinema leaders.

Who was Conrad H. Foster? 

Conrad H. Foster, who lived from 1875 to 1940, was actually the manager of the State Theatre, back when it was known as the Lyric Theatre. He was a great showman with a passion for movies who first brought “talkies” to northern Michigan.

He was also a civic leader, championing efforts to clean up the waterfront and establish Clinch Park, and serving as City Commissioner, Mayor and head of the Chamber of Commerce. To celebrate all that Foster had done for the city, the local Civil Works Administration had his name carved over the doorway of the museum without his knowledge. He no doubt would have loved seeing this grand building continue its long history with Traverse City, including its new mission to show Just Great Movies year-round.

Learn more about Conrad H. Foster here.

Bijou by the Bay: What’s in a Name? 

The Traverse City Film Festival is currently in the process of restoring the Con Foster Museum – originally built by President Roosevelt’s Civil Works Administration – with the same loving care and the same team that resurrected the State Theatre in 2007. Because the building sits on the shores of Grand Traverse Bay, we’ve 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 splendidly.

Why Another Theater? Strength in Numbers

Plans are currently on track to have our Grand Opening of the Bijou by the Bay on July 29 — the night before the beginning of this year’s Traverse City Film Festival!

The Bijou by the Bay will not only be a unique place to see a great movie, but it’ll also make the State Theatre stronger. Right now, due to an old deed restriction, we currently can’t show any movie at the State Theatre that opens on more than 200 screens across the country. That lets out most of the big blockbuster movies.

But the Bijou doesn’t have that restriction, and having a second screen also means more foreign movies, documentaries, and hidden gems. Not to mention more possibilities for local groups and students. The possibilities are truly limitless.

Bijou by the Bay

Hard at work getting the Bijou by the Bay ready for the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival

Be Part of History 

Remember the excitement when we first started hearing that the State Theatre might be restored? The idea that such a magnificent movie palace could not only be restored, but be better than ever, was such a thrill – especially to those of us who saw movies there as kids.

Now we have that same excitement with the Bijou by the Bay, and here’s your chance to be part of history. Buzz Wilson and his family were the “angels” who wrote that first check to get the ball rolling on restoration of the State Theatre. The Milock family, Michael Moore, 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. No tax dollars were used, and no big fundraising campaign was launched.

In order to bring the Bijou by the Bay to life, Richard and Diana Milock have again stepped forward to be our main financial angel, writing a donation check of a quarter million dollars, which is covering one-third of the renovation costs.

The other two-thirds? That’s where we come in. Click through the donation button below, or go to, where you’ll find more info and easy access to all donation options, including details about how you can contribute:

  • Make a quick, easy and secure online donation for any amount (and we mean any!).
  • Wish List Sponsorships, including the Marquee and Popcorn Machine.
  • $500 – Your dedication engraved on a brick outside the Bijou.
  • $1000 – Your dedication on a seat plaque inside the theater. The seats are just like the State Theatre seats, only blue. Remember that Michael picked those out himself because he wanted to make sure they were comfortable!
  • $5000 – A professionally made 24″ x 20″ photo of you and your guests under the marquee with your name and dedication in lights.
  • $10,000 – A private screening for you and your guests at the Bijou in 2014.
  • $50,000 – Permanently named on the building as a Founder of the Bijou.

Every dollar counts, so please contribute now to make sure this gem of a theater becomes a beloved addition to the community for many years. Also, hop over and “like” the Bijou by the Bay on Facebook to keep on top of news and announcements.