The Bijou Film Center promises return to small film house roots, opens this weekend

Posted by: brad – Sep 01, 2016


It’s showtime this Friday. The Bijou Film Center will make its grand opening at First Friday, Sept. 2, from 6-10:30 p.m..

Movie buffs can gather, drink beer, wine or soft drinks, and watch a few short movies and a live performance.

Terry Rea and James Parrish (founders of the Bijou) hope to move into a slightly bigger permanent space within a year, but they are still raising money for the project.

Rea and Parrish first met in the late 90’s. Terry ran the Biograph Theater which is now the Noodles and Company on Grace Street. It showcased short films and live acts. James was running a film company called Flicker. Flicker merged with Richmond Moving Image Co-op to form the James River Film Society.

They first worked together on a benefit for James River Film Society in 2002 which featured the 30th anniversary of the Biograph Theater.

Talk about the Bijou began three years ago when Terry approached James about helping him produce a documentary. James agreed and then asked if Terry would help him with an idea for a small theater.

Bijou in French means little gem, or small and elegant They were inspired by Jake Wells who opened two family style theaters in Richmond called Bijou. Here, Jake screened films in between live performances. They wanted to bring back the essence of the small theater that includes classic, new, edgy and documentary films from small name artists.

Their end goal is to have a space with one-hundred seats and a quaint theater cafe.

“More and more I just got drawn into the idea, and fell in love with the idea of a little cinema, not a big movie house like the Byrd, but a little cinema, which was much more like how movie theaters started,” Rea said.

Once big movie palaces came out with big budget Hollywood films these little theaters and little films became an underground movement floating under the publics’ radar. Rea said little theaters “blossomed into the art house repertoire golden age of the late 60’s and into 70’s” around the time of the Biograph opened in the 70’s.

The biggest obstacle for the new Bijou was funding. But instead of launching a fundraising campaign they started showing films, like "Hard Days Night," at the Byrd, and live events at Hardywood. they also started a membership drive.

The “pop-up” events and other revenue streams raised enough money to get equipment and to sign a lease.

The past three years have been leading up to their opening event this weekend. Although they have another year or so to go until they reach their final goal, we can celebrate this achievement beside them with a good ole’ fashion flick.

Short Charlie Chaplin films will be projected on the walls while guest mingle and observe the new space. Then the Bopcats take the stage at 9 to kick of the celebration. Admission is free until 9.

On Sat, Sept 3, The Bijou will feature another Chaplin movie “Modern Times,” in spirt of Labor Day. Admission is $5.00.

If you would like to become a member, a volunteer, or just learn more about the Bijou, visit their website here.

There are more events on the weekends for the rest of September listed here.

Sept. 2 – First Fridays Open House and The Bop Cats!
Sept. 3 – "Modern Times"
Sept. 10 – Miss Sharon Jones
Sept. 17 – "The 400 Blows" and "The Red Balloon"
Sept. 24 – Art House Theater Day w/"Danny Says"

Words by Taylor Ostendorf