The Bijou Film Center celebrates with movies, mirth and music on Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m., at the Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, the culmination of the first round of fundraising that began March 3. They’re calling it a “Leap of Faith” party because the object is to gather 360 core founding members to raise $18,000. The total includes $12,000 for the lease for the eventual space and $6,000 toward equipment and programming for the first year. The event is free and open to the public.
In recent days, the Bijou received a bequest from the late and lamented Westhampton Theater, a Richmond movie-going tradition since 1936, that closed on March 20.
The Bijou duo of James Parrish and F.T. Rea planned originally for a four-day summer close-out love festival for the Westhampton. “We wanted to show some films that people saw there and enjoyed, mix it with some of what the Bijou will offer, bring in former Neighborhood Theatres personnel, and really do it up right. But timing is everything, and it didn’t work out.” The Westhampton closed sooner that anybody in the filmgoing public wanted, but the present ownership donated the upstairs screen and 279 seats. The Bijou, when it's built out, will use 150 of those. The seats from the main theater are going to a school, Parrish says.
More about the Bijou's Leap of Faith Campaign:
“But with the Westhampton gift, we’ve turned a corner in how we’re proceeding,” Parrish says. While in active negotiations with a downtown property owner/developer in the Arts District, the Bijou will move toward what its actual situation may resemble. “We’re looking at pop-up, folding-chair events,” Parrish says. Whenever and wherever the Bijou at last moves in to a “warm shell” situation, in property parlance, risers and platforms will need to be constructed for seat installation, a projection booth constructed, the screen wired for sound and the café completed. He estimates at least 18 months of folding chairs during the build-out. In the meantime, One South Realty Group and other community partners are collaborating with the Bijou on finding a place to store the Westhampton’s chairs and screen.
Parrish estimates the total cost of making the Bijou shine at around $450,000. Thus, the phased development of the theater, and generating enough to get started to better promote the idea “with something actually going on and good money already in hand,” Parrish says. The Bijou plan is to build membership and get to the goal in stages.
One of the most expensive aspects of setting up the theater is acquiring a Digital Cinema Package (DCP) such as the system the Byrd needed to install to continue showing even restorations of older films. Since the Bijou is dedicated to keeping alive the actual projection of film, 35 mm and 16 mm equipment is needed — “and not stuff that comes off a junk heap,” Parrish says. The goal is an archive-certified projection booth to suit the lending requirements of places like the Library of Congress, UCLA, Harvard and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – the outfit that gives out the Oscars every year.
The Byrd screening of the documentary about elusive street photographer Vivian Maier persuaded Parrish and Rea that a Bijou concept was possible. “I looked out and saw the coffee shop barista, the artists and musicians, the people who appreciate these kinds of films, and they filled the place,” Parrish says.
He’s gotten over falling in love with spaces and come to the pragmatic conclusion that there is no perfect place, but there are places where the Bijou could come into existence. Parrish explains, “The people we’re talking to all realize that we’d bring great energy to that part of town, but it’s business, so there must be a mutually beneficial situation.”
A longtime music impresario and former employee of the old Biograph Theatre, Chuck Wrenn, is emceeing the Hardywood event and WRIR’s DJ Carlito will present selections from classic and oddball film scores. This will be followed by the purebred American mongrel stylings of Big Boss Combo (5:30), Grass Panther (6:45) and the Green Hearts, with members of the Red Hot Lava Men (7:45).
And Shane Brown, in the Hardywood lobby, will project a collection of Super 8 cartoons and silent films.
There’ll be a variety of food trucks on hand, too, to satisfy the inner hungers.
For further information, see here.