It is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of the Bijou Art Cinemas. I feel privileged to have been a steward for this beloved Eugene institution for the past eight years, but the current circumstances make continuing our operations impossible.
I am disappointed, saddened and heartbroken that after working so hard to put the theater on strong financial footing, the disruption due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the demands of the building’s owner, leave us no choice other than closing. Despite our efforts to pay a reduce rate to reflect the realities of the pandemic and the inability of the theater to function, the strident position of the landlord made it impossible to reach a reasonable and rational solution to a problem facing businesses all over the state, the country and the world. Instead, the landlord precipitously and likely illegally locked us out of our premises, is trying to take possession of all of our equipment and assets, and appears to be claiming ownership of our name.
I left New York to find a small, progressive community that wasn’t ruled by the greed of Wall Street. I found that in Eugene and within it, a warm, welcoming and vibrant circle of like-minded folks that appreciated and supported independent film. Five years ago, I fought my co-owners to stop the closing of the Bijou and to prevent further mismanagement and exploitation of the theater’s assets. Against all odds, in the face of astonishing greed, and at great personal and financial sacrifice my partner and I with the help of our intrepid and wonderful staff, were able to save the theater. The Bijou has never been a money-making prospect for us, it was a true passion project and the support I received from the community was an amazing reward.
Unfortunately, once again the jewel that is the Bijou is in the sights of another “opportunist.” Despite making adjusted regular rent payment while the business was unable to operate, my partner and I have been harassed, intimidated, demeaned and belittled. We discovered our business is being taken over by reading about it in the Register Guard. It’s hard enough being female business owners but the hostility we have encountered in this process has been staggering, as is the naked greed and exploitation. Things I hadn’t imagined existed in Eugene. This has been an extraordinarily difficult period.
The support I have received from the community and the opportunity to get to know so many of you have been the highlights of this experience for me. The Bijou has always been a special place. It was apparent to me, immediately, that the energy and vibrancy of the Bijou came not from the owners, but from the patrons. I will carry with me so many wonderful memories of sharing my love of film with all you, hearing your insights, recommendations and reactions.
I am grateful for being able to bring so much great film to the Eugene community with the help of our hard-working, industrious booker Connie from Balcony Booking. From cat videos that made us laugh to documentaries that inspired and enlightened. From Rocky Horror to Rembrandt. From Film Noir to modern masterpieces and everything in between. I am so very proud of our highly successful membership program and our Academy Awards Galas which raised money for great causes such as Food for Lane County and local animal shelters. I will cherish all the amazing speakers and important local organizations we have hosted over the years. I am thankful for the relationships we have cultivated with numerous local non-profits and for our many collaborations with various UO Departments, most especially the Cinema Studies, as well as the Social Justice Department and Environmental Studies.
My deepest gratitude to all the extremely generous advertisers who supported us over the years and kept our lights on during the slow times. And most especially my heart goes to all our truly inspirational and incredible patrons. Thank you for your love and support. I feel such a deep kinship with all of you. Operating the Bijou has truly been a dream come true for me and has been an absolute joy. You have given me the gift of a lifetime and I will treasure it always. It’s been a fantastic journey and I am so grateful to have travelled it with you all and to have made so many incredible friends along the way. The Bijou will live on in our hearts.
The pandemic has changed the movie business forever, but I hope all of us film lovers will still be able to find the small gems that were the heart of the Bijou, I’ll miss finding them with all of you.