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.

9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival Officially in a Go Mode!

Traverse City Film Festival

Ticket buyers boarding the shuttle at the State Theatre | Jane Boursaw Photo

With ticket sales now underway, the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival is officially in a go mode! I’ll be your host and humble blogger here for the duration, and I look forward to chatting with you here on the blog, as well as out and about in the fest. I’m excited!

So let’s start with Sunday, a.k.a. Day One of Ticket Sales. Listen, I’d stood in line for tickets in previous years, so figured I had plenty of time to take my mom to church in the morning, then buzz to town and chat up a few people standing in line.

But holy smokes, I got to the State Theatre around 1:30 p.m., and just barely caught the last few people before they boarded the shuttle to head down the street to the Main Box Office, which this year is located above 7 Monks Taproom at 128 S. Union Street.

Clearly, the new system is a smashing success. Instead of standing in the hot sun for hours as in previous years, ticket buyers sat in the cool comfort of the State Theatre and watched previews of the festival films. The festival keeps changing it up, and each year things get more and more streamlined.

“It was so much better than last year,” said film festival volunteer Nancy Briggs. “Once we got going, it was just like clockwork. People were able to watch previews, and some even changed their minds about films after watching the previews.”

Traverse City Film Festival: Volunteer N

Volunteer Nancy Briggs on day one of ticket sales at the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo

Tom Sawyer (yes, his real name, he assured me!), didn’t have to wait long after arriving at the State Theatre. The film aficionado from Chapel Hill, North Carolina expressed excitement over many of the films, but is especially looking forward to the documentaries, including The Human Scale,” which delves into the impending issue of overpopulation, and Inequality For All,” an engrossing film about the widening income gap in America, featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich as an affable tour guide through the current U.S. economy.

Traverse City Film Festival: Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer, looking forward to the documentaries at the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo

Kristin Smith, Linda Poindexter and Juli Ringwelski agreed they were looking forward to ALL the films, as were Muriel and Bob Peavler, whom I chatted with while they waited in comfort at the State Theatre before boarding the shuttle to the box office.

Traverse City Film Festival

Kristin Smith, Linda Poindexter & Juli Ringwelski on day one of ticket sales at the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo

Then I scurried down the street to the box office and caught up with a few folks in line there. Terry Haslinger perhaps had one of the longest journeys to buy tickets on Sunday. The film fan left Stratford, Ontario at 6 a.m. that morning and drove six hours to Traverse City. That’s dedication!

Traverse City Film Festival

Terry Haslinger traveled to T.C. from Canada to get tickets for the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo

Stephanie and Nathan Schultz were fresh off a game of tennis as they waited in line at the Main Box Office. The couple moved to Traverse City from Los Angeles three years ago, and have been attending the film festival each year. Yes, you read that right. They moved here from L.A. and now watch more movies than ever before. That’s how we do it in Traverse City.

Traverse City Film Festival

Stephanie and Nathan Schultz, fresh off a game of tennis to buy tickets for the 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo

While we’ve already set a new record for first-day TCFF ticket sales, there are still plenty of tickets available for great films.

Tickets for Friends of the Film Festival are now available at this site you’re reading, by phone at (231) 929-FILM(3456), and at the Main Box Office, located, as mentioned, at 128 S. Union Street, above 7 Monks Taproom.

Public ticket sales begin on July 20 at 11 a.m. for walk up and phone sales. Online sales begin at 6 p.m. that same day.

Box Office Hours:

Pre-Festival Hours (July 14-29):
Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sun, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
*Special extended hours: Open until 9 p.m. July 28 & 29

Festival Hours (July 30-Aug 4):
Tue-Sat, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sun, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
*Special extended hours: Open until 9 p.m. July 30 & 31

Check back here daily for news, interviews, festival tips, tidbits and more!