The Bijou Is Back
The Bijou Theatre in Bridgeport—the oldest surviving movie theater in the country—will reopen its doors officially on Sept. 10 after undergoing an extensive renovation by leading-edge developer Phil Kuchma. Built in 1909, the theater (also called the Rivoli and Studio Cinema) operated as a movie and vaudeville house for roughly 90 years before it was boarded up. When Kuchma bought the building in 2005, it became the focal point for his Bijou Square development—a Fairfield Avenue gentrification project he championed to revitalize the downtown area.
Now that the physical work has been completed, Kuchma has handed the operational reins over to Christine Brown, Lynn Julian and Kathy Reynolds, partners in One and Only Entertainment, which since July has presented foreign and independent films during a soft-opening period. Rather than keep it just a movie cinema, the group plans to treat the venue as a multifaceted arts facility. Brown says, “We want to create a lively symposium for film, theater, art, comedy and music here.” Julian adds, “And to tap into local talent and provide a showcase for the area’s artistic community.”
The original 100-year-old proscenium surrounds the stage, with more than 200 new seats, including stadium-style and cabaret-style tables in the main theater as well as cabaret seating in two private balcony boxes. State-of-the-art lighting and audio systems have been installed. But an impressive full-service bar really sets the place apart from most other cinemas. Cheese plates and tapas are on the snack menu, with popcorn at the concession stand, of course. And dinner, from Bare Tapas Bar next door, is available while you watch the show.
Brown has also instituted the Bijou Film Society (for the following that will develop, no doubt). Members will receive discounts and access to special events. Cult favorites will be shown each month, with fans voting on the final selection via the website. A grand opening gala, set for Sept. 10, will feature a variety of entertainment, with special events throughout the weekend. (Look for details on the website.) “Our chief goal is to cultivate the personality of the Bijou and tap into its past to bring a newfound energy to Bridgeport,” says Julian.
The Bijou Is Back
For further information, call (203) 332-3228 or visit thebijoutheatre.com.