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A preview of The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night"
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In 2012, James Parrish and Terry Rea, while collaborating on the 40th anniversary event for the James River Film Society, discussed the idea of bringing a “little cinema” to Richmond.
“Little cinema” was an idea that formed in the 1920s, when Hollywood had made everything big — big screens, big theaters, longer films. But there existed a group that held on to small theaters and short movies. These people continued supporting storefronts that projected a presentation on a blank white wall.
Fascinated by the concept of “little cinema,” Parrish and Rea researched the steps necessary to bring the idea to life in Richmond. After several conversations over beer, the dream continued to grow. Now, Parrish and Rea are knee-deep in building a community hub based around film.
Parrish and Rea, who are both deeply involved in the arts community in Richmond, have focused much of their careers on film. (Rea was manager of the Biograph Theatre and Parrish co-founded the James River Film Society).
In addition to constructing their own theater, Parrish and Rea decided that attaching it to a café would create a more successful business. The partners also frequently returned their discussion to their love of film preservation, which led them to add to their business plan a center devoted to transferring small-format amateur films to digital.
Suddenly, a grand idea had formed: the Bijou Film Center. As it’s envisioned, the Bijou, which stands for “little jewel,” will eventually include a theater, a café and a business for preserving and re-producing old films.
The Bijou will be more than that, too, Rea says. “It will be a clubhouse for people who love movies, people who make movies and people who want to make movies.”
The goal for the film center, besides Steven Spielberg walking through the door, as Parrish says, cheekily, is for people to celebrate film and gather in appreciation of the art.
The Bijou will feature movies that the community wants to see, particularly older movies that have been neglected over time or never made it to the Richmond area. The Bijou will have more freedom than theater chains, Parrish and Rea say. Unlike the chains, which are on advanced contracts with major production companies, the Bijou will be flexible.
“If the Bijou had been up and running when Robin Williams died, we could have featured some of his movies as a commemorative exposition, for the community to come together and laugh and heal,” Parrish says.
The Bijou Film Center will be a nonprofit organization. In order to raise the money needed for their endeavors, Parrish and Rea are hosting a series of fundraisers, the first of which is this Sunday (Sept. 21), when the Bijou will present a screening of A Hard Day's Night at the Byrd Theatre. Event-goers are invited to cocktails at Portrait House before the film and live music and drink specials at New York Deli afterward.
A Hard Day's Night, which captures the Beatlemania phenomenon of the early 1960s, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It never aired in Richmond originally, so Parrish and Rea believe it perfectly represents the kind of movies the Bijou would show.
The proceeds from the screening will be split evenly by the non-profit Byrd Theatre Foundation's “Journey to the Seats” and the Bijou Film Center.
Parrish and Rea are confident in their idea, and they are excited about creating a community center for all of the people in Richmond who have helped and inspired them in the past.
“We are by and from the arts community in Richmond,” Parrish says. “People want us to succeed.”
The fundraiser begins at 4 p.m. with the happy hour at Portrait House, followed by the movie at 6 p.m. and live music by The Taters at New York Deli at 8 p.m. Admission to the screening will be $7 at the box office. Advance tickets will be available for $5 at Bygones Vintage Clothing and Steady Sounds, and online at Eventbrite for $5 plus a processing fee ($1.27). There will be no cover charge at Portrait House or at the New York Deli. For more information on the first Bijou Film Center event please visit the Bijou's website and the event's Facebook page.