Indie movie theater Bijou Film Center opens this weekend in Richmond

Updated: Aug. 31, 2016 at 5:28 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new independent movie theater is opening this weekend in Richmond, hoping to fill the void left by the now closed Westhampton Theater.

"Up there will be the sign for the Bijou," Terry Rea pointed out front of the building.  "The name of the theater will be painted on there and we'll probably do some things to dress up the front."

The new Bijou Film Center opening at 304 E. Broad St. is a nod to the original Bijou Theaters, opened back in 1899 and 1904, that also sat on Broad Street a few blocks down.

When you walk into the new Bijou, Rea showed us, "We're going to have about sixty of the seats we borrowed from 1708 Gallery lined up. The screen will be in the back of the room."

Folding chairs for now, say partners Terry Rea and James Parrish, but in a few months they'll install theater seats that were donated from the Westhampton, which is now being redeveloped.

"It was a lot of work. Boy, it was a lot of work!" said Rea.  "We took about 200 seats out of there and none of them wanted to come."

In fact, Rea and Parrish hope to fill the nostalgic void left by the closing of the Westhampton Theater with independent and art films. Besides the seats, they say they hope to get one more thing from the Westhampton.

"We're getting the theater ghost along with it," smiled Parrish, "We're not old enough to have our own ghost, so it feels good to get the ghost, too."

Parrish and Rea, who owned Richmond's former Biograph Theater, have been raising money to open the Bijou through memberships and showing films in other locations over the past few years.

For starters, Bijou guests will be able to purchase snacks and drinks, such as wine, beer, and coffee.  But Parrish says they hope to add a cafe.

"Friday we're opening with a First Fridays after party," said Parrish. "We're having the band called 'The Bobcats.'  We can also have live music in this venue."

He says they plan to choose films they think Richmonders will enjoy.  The first on Saturday will be Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. Another nod to the past, just like the Bijou itself.

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