The Bijou by the Bay is a 150-seat nonprofit theater in a lovely City park on Grand Traverse Bay, next to the multi-use TART Trail. The Bijou follows the same world-class standards and model used for its sister screen, the State, which is just a block away.
The Bijou draws people downtown in droves to see the latest and greatest movies, including blockbuster Hollywood films that we cannot screen at the State due to its deed restriction. The Bijou has all of the things you love about the State Theatre — affordable prices, friendly service, impeccable projection and sound — plus its own unique charm and a more intimate feel.
The first new movie theater to open within Traverse City city limits in over 63 years sits in the Con Foster Museum building, originally built by President Roosevelt's Civil Works Administration in the 1930s. After sitting vacant for many years, the dilapidated building was transformed into a fully accessible state-of-the-art movie theater in 2013 with love and care by the same team that resurrected the State Theatre in 2007. The Bijou's renovation was made possible by a cornerstone donation by Richard and Diana Milock, the Bijou Founders, and many individuals who gave generously of their money and time to create a waterfront theater that has made the State Theatre stronger and more sustainable.
That the Bijou by the Bay resides in the former Con Foster Museum building is nothing less than serendipitous — Conrad Foster was manager of the State Theatre back when it was called the Lyric! Con Foster started his movie career at the age of 13 as an usher in Boston's Bijou Theatre. He moved to Traverse City in 1917 to run the Lyric, a job he loved and continued until his death in 1940. He also served as head of the Chamber of Commerce, City Commissioner, and Mayor of what he called "the best little city in the world.” Transforming the defunct museum named in his honor into a cinema allows us to pay tribute to Traverse City's original movie house impresario, an accomplished civic leader who was dedicated to serving his community.
The Bijou features large scale murals showcasing the beautiful Lake Michigan shores on which it sits. The murals were designed and painted by award-winning local artists Glenn Wolff and Rufus Snoddy. Sharp eyes may notice a few things that don't quite fit with the naturalistic imagery: several "easter eggs" relating to classic films and local history are hidden within the murals. (Hint: one relates to "The Wizard of Oz.") Take a close look at the murals and see what you can find.
Bijou (pronounced "BEE-zhu," not "bayou") is the French word for "little gem." Bijou was a very popular name for movie theaters in the 1930s and 1940s, the era in which the original Con Foster Museum building was constructed, and we designed the Bijou to be a gem of a little movie theater. We hope you'll agree!
Many things make the Bijou unique — its waterfront site, its large-scale murals... and the location of its fully-accessible restrooms. You will find them down front, behind the screen.