Downtown Traverse City has come a long way since the Traverse City Film Festival refurbished and reopened the historic State Theatre in 2007.
By attracting more than 1 million movie-goers downtown since then the theater has been the catalyst for the surge of business activity that has seen new restaurants, new shops and new buildings, plus a lot more business for existing stores, later hours and a sense that there’s something going on. There’s a nightlife and bustle that wasn’t there before.
The film festival has now unveiled Bijou by the Bay, the transformation of the old Con Foster Museum building in Clinch Park into a 150-seat movie house that will offer first-run films and a second downtown-area screen, the first time in about a century the city will have two operating theaters inside the city limits.
And while the Bljou may not have the kind of impact on downtown that the State has had, it is a significant addition to the local entertainment and business scene that will, like the State, bring thousands of people and untold dollars to downtown. It’s an ancient economic maxim that a rising tide floats all boats; getting the downtown tide to rise not once but twice is an amazing feat.
But the grand opening of the Bijou over the weekend is only the beginning of much work yet to be done. A lot of that is going to be up to the Film Festival. Festival co-founder Michael Moore has said the festival wants to upgrade the projector for the Bijou, create a vestibule so patrons can get in out of the elements, improve heating and eventually install 3-D capability.
But the less glamorous work of helping the Bijou succeed by maintaining year-round access, helping direct patrons to the right place and ensuring that it’s a safe experience for everyone is going to be up to the city and a seemingly reluctant city commission.