One of my first research papers that was on a small locally owned theatre in the town of Eugene, OR.
The independently owned Bijou theatre has been part of Eugene's community for 30 years now. It is a unique theatre that mainly shows independent, foreign and hard to find films. The Bijou is located on 13th Street near the U of O which provides a major part of it's revenue, obviously due to all the students. The Alternative city of Eugene is the perfect place for such a theatre. The Bijou also has re-runs of such classics as "The Rocky Horror Picture show" and also has events like Oscar night, where they show the oscars on the big screen. It is a big part of Eugene and is really a unique theatre with a interesting history and a few interesting inhabitants of the theatre itself.
1980 Eugene-Springfield area had a large offering of theaters to choose from, eleven in all: The Eugene Drive-in, The Mayflower, Valley River Twin, The National, Cinema World, Cinema 7, West 11th Drive-in, West 11th Walk-in, Mckenzie, Oakway Cinema, And West 11th Movieland 6. As far as I know these were all owned by corporations excepting Cinema 7 which was independently owned like The Bijou(1).
The Bijou theatre was opened in October 16, 1980 by Robert Mcneely, who later changed his name to Michael Lamont, as a single screen 120 seat movie theatre that specialized in independent films. The building the theatre had moved into was a old spanish missionary style church that was constructed in 1925 by The University of Oregon's own W.R.B. Wilcox who was the first dean of the architect school. It was originally the home of the first congregational Church, United Church for Christ. In 1956 it became McGaffey and Andreason Mortuary(2). Lamont had always been interested in films and it was at the Waco Twin Cinemas on Franklin Boulevard in Springfield that Lamont learned how to use a projector. After discovering that the Wilcox building had space open, which was formerly a chapel, he opened the bijou in 1980 by selling his photography equipment(3). The Bijou's first films were Get out Your Handkerchiefs(1978), The Rink(1916) a Chaplin short, The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour(1967), Beatles Tokyo(1966), and Flash Gordon(1980)(4). They charged two dollars per ticket. In 1981 Lamont and his partner W.H Taft Chatham updated the theatre from a 120 seats to 142 and from a 16mm projection equipment to 32mm and they also updated the screen to a Silver-gio screen. Tickets prices jumped fifty cents after the update(5). Lamont again updated the Bijou in July of 1987 by investing $45,000 to add a second theatre that seated 92 people(6). Lamont had been planning on adding another theatre from as early as 1982, but had trouble because of an appeal by a neighbor who thought the noise and traffic would be unbearable(7).
Lamont ran the Bijou from 1980-2001. He was then diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease which prevented him from running the theatre as his medical condition worsened. From 2002-2007 the present owner, Louise Thomas, then the manager of the theatre, ran it for Lamont who died in December of 2007 leaving the future of the Bijou in question. In June 2010 after nearly two years of not knowing what the fate of the theatre was to be, it was announced that Louise Thomas was going to buy it. Lamont's sister, Michaele Rychetsky of Bend, Oregon, became the owner after Lamont’s death and was the seller(8).
One of the most surprising things I discovered in my research is that contrary to what I thought, and I'm sure most people would think, Michael Lamont was not a liberal, but a hardcore republican, passionately so. He loved Rush Limbaugh, supported Bush Senior's Gulf War decision, and even protested against Bill Clinton when he came to Eugene. The Bijou is such an artsy and alternative theatre that shows numerous films with liberal agendas that it would seem unthinkable that the original owner would be the exact opposite(9).
The Bijou Cinemas is only one of two independently owned theaters in Eugene the other being the David Minor theatre which opened up back in 2008. When the Bijou first opened there was another independent theatre, Cinema 7 owned by Steve Bove, which opened in 1974. Cinema 7 had a single theatre that sat 120 people and like the Bijou it often had showings of, "a mix of foreign films, HollyWood Classics and occasional second-run and "revival" features”(10). Cinema 7 closed in 1987 leaving the Bijou as the only independently owned theatre and only theatre who's main films were independent, that is until Steve Bove opened another theatre this time in Springfield, The Mercury Theater, taking over the building that the last theater, The Fine Arts Theater on 630 Main St. Springfield, used to inhabit. Bove again showed films like the one's he showed in his Cinema 7 theatre. His plan was to postpone any major renovations until the new lease in late 1989. Tickets ran from $2.50 to $3.50(11). Unfortunatley Bove had no luck with The Mercury Theater which only remained open for approximately a year and a half and closed in mid July of 1989, due to what seemed to be lack of leasing payments and a lack of sufficient audience. This again left the Bijou Theatre as the only independently owned theatre in Eugene until the David Minor Theatre opened in 2008.
Other than being a theatre, it was also the home of a cat and still the home of- depending what you believe, it could go either way really-a ghost, one Kate by name. The cat was famous enough to warrant itself an newspaper article upon its death in the Guard. Boo, was 22 when she left this world on March 8, 2009, and was only a few pounds lighter than her age. Boo was such a popular creature that people would even drop by the theatre to say hullo to her. She also received birthday cards and gifts and a shrine was even made for her at the time of her death, composed of cards and flowers that were placed on the seat she had made her own in the theatre lobby. She was a big part of the theatre and even made her way into the Bijou’s advertising(12).
The Pacific Paranormal Research Society, investigated the Bijou and supposedly found paranormal activity in theatre 2. Theatre 1 is supposedly haunted as well. Theatre 2 was the room that housed the dead back when the bijou was a funeral home. An employee as well as several movie goers have claimed to see spirits in the supposed haunted theatre number 2(13 and 14).
After 30 years of business and with a new owner as of this year the Bijou is still running strong and looks like it will continue to benefit the Eugene Community with it’s fine films and popcorn for the for see able future.