Bijou by the Bay Grand Opening: A Spectacular Affair

Bijou by the Bay Marquee

The Bijou by the Bay Grand Opening was held tonight, and it was definitely what you’d call a spectacular affair – not only because “The Spectacular Now” was the film that screened, but also because it’s just so cool to see the historical Con Foster Museum transformed into a hidden gem of a movie theater, to be open year-round.

Bijou by the Bay: Michael Moore

Michael Moore greets guests at the Bijou by the Bay Grand Opening | Jane Boursaw Photo

As folks filed into the building, you could hear the delight in their voices at seeing the new theater – which Thom Darga and his crew worked like crazy to finish in time – and settle into the plush blue seats. These are just like the State Theatre seats, only blue, to match the beach theme of the Bijou by the Bay.

The murals by Glenn Wolff and Rufus Snoddy are simply gorgeous, depicting the Traverse City landscape and seascape in all its glory. In fact, those in attendance tonight were witness to the “signing of the murals” by Glenn and Rufus. Very cool, and you just knew that this is something you’d look back on with reverence.

Bijou by the Bay: Billy Strings, Don Julin

Billy Strings and Don Julin got the audience jazzed before the film | Jane Boursaw Photo

Billy Strings and Don Julin provided rousing music to get things started, and the Laurie Sears Quartet created a jazzy ambience at the afterparty, held on the beach next to the theater.

The food was also “spectacular,” with a fantastic feast provided by The Cooks’ House, Grand Traverse Distillery, Chateau Grand Traverse and H. Cox and Son.

A highlight was the most adorable cupcake display I’ve ever seen, created by Cakes by Lori Kirk. Surrounding an amazingly detailed cake depicting the Bijou by the Bay was a table full of cupcakes dotted with “popcorn kernels” on the top.

Bijou by the Bay: Cakes by Lori Kirk

An adorable cupcake display from Cakes by Lori Kirk | Jane Boursaw Photo

The event was sponsored by celebrity chef Mario Batali and Susi Cahn, so you know that great care went into every culinary detail.

Bijou by the Bay: The Cooks' House

A fabulous culinary spread by The Cooks’ House | Jane Boursaw Photo

Before the movie screened, film festival executive director Deb Lake spoke, thanking everyone for their hard work in making it all come together at light-speed. Film fest founder Michael Moore also spoke, noting that this year’s 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival is dedicated to Michigan’s First Lady Helen Milliken, who passed away last year, and Bryan Crough, who died unexpectedly just a few weeks ago.

Both have been champions of the film festival and Traverse City area, and the audience cheered when Michael introduced Helen’s husband, Gov. William Milliken, in attendance tonight.

The Spectacular NowAs for “The Spectacular Now,” it’s a film that has roots firmly planted in the garden of John Hughes and Cameron Crowe. The story follows high school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller; also look for him in the upcoming buzzed-about “Divergent”), a hard-partying high school senior who works at a men’s clothing store and has no particular plans for the future. That is, until he gets drunk one night and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finicky (the wonderful Shailene Woodley) hovering over him.

Aimee’s got her own family issues, but Sutter helps her build up the courage (in a very funny scene) to tell her mom she’s going to college, and she helps him build up the courage to ask his mom for his absentee-dad’s (Kyle Chandler) phone number – and then go along to meet him. It’s an eye-opening and life-changing experience for Sutter.

Directed by James Ponsoldt and adapted from a novel by Tim Tharp, “The Spectacular Now” opens wide in theaters Aug. 2, 2013. It has a “(500) Days of Summer” vibe, which is no surprise, since it was penned by the same writers.

Check it out. No one phones it in for this movie, and you’ll be glad you saw it.

Bijou by the Bay: Mario Batali

Mario Batali is in the house! | Jane Boursaw Photo

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.