History

CHRIS AND KIRA MOORE Oct 23, 2015 – Present

Chris and Kira had been contemplating the Bijou ever since Jerry and Cheryl put it up for sale. They were busy with their caricature business at that time, however, and had just bought a starter home in Cedar Rapids. (They are planning to move back to Mount Vernon)

When Jim and Vicki put it up for sale, the time was ripe. And when life throws you a movie theater, you buy it! Bright eyed and bushy tailed, the two artists decided to take on a new business venture. Chris even designed a new logo for the Bijou before the deal was done.

The second week of ownership was over Halloween. They opened up the theater to trick-or-treating. They darkened the auditorium, played spooky sound effects and invited people to walk through – if they dare! Then they had a special post-trick-or-treating show where kids could bring their Halloween candy to the movie.

Kira (Scott) grew up in Mount Vernon. Chris has always had a great love and appreciation for movies. With their non-traditional schedule and creative ideas, they felt like it would be a good fit. With the support of Kira’s family, they were able to purchase the theater, and before they knew it, they were theater owners.

It happened so fast, that Mount Vernon barely seemed to realize the theater had changed owners. (Especially since Chris and Kira have the same last name as Jim and Vicki, although they are not related – this also confused some of the studios and other suppliers for the Bijou) Chris and Kira were running the theater with just two weeks of prep time. Luckily, Jim and Vicki kept a tidy, smooth-sailing ship, which helped things change hands relatively easily.

Chris and Kira’s first show was Pan, on Oct 23, 2015.

See you at the Bijou!

JIM AND VICKI MOORE May 30, 2013 – Oct 23, 2015

On an unexpected day off for Vicki, she and Jim decided to see a movie at The Bijou. Jerry announced during “the Jerry Show” that the theater was for sale and they both new immediately they wanted to be the next owners.

A few short weeks, and many discussions, later they became the owners of the Bijou on May 30,2013.

During their years at The Bijou, they continued to improve the building, including repurchasing the adjacent empty lot, with plans for a much needed addition. They restored the original paint scheme of the outside of the building.and on the inside, they cleaned and scrubbed to make it shine.

When they returned to full-time work, Jim and Vicki realized they would have to sell, as they could not commit as much time as they would like to the Bijou.

Their last show was Hotel Transylvania 2, on Oct 22, 2015.

JERRY AND CHERYL SHEEHY Aug 1 2002 – May 30 2013

Jerry and Cheryl operated The Bijou for 11 memorable years. Their goal was to make the theater a place where families could enjoy a movie together and where parents didn’t have to worry about sending their kids to a movie alone. They have reported that they witnessed “many first dates” from young teens coming through the doors.

Perhaps one of the greatest legacies from Jerry and Cheryl is “The Jerry Show”. It was born, quite unexpectedly, one day when self-reportedly shy Jerry decided to come out and say “Hi, Everybody!” To which, of course the proper response is: “Hi, Jerry!”

Out of “The Jerry Show” came the pre-show drawings for pop and popcorn or posters, and the Jerry exersize routine. (“Stand up, stretch, lean forward stretch, and pick up anything you find there”) They also started the Bijou Recycling Program where you could bring back your plastic pop and popcorn tubs (or a clean food container from home) and get a half-price refill.

Jerry and Cheryl decided to run the Bijou as a job for Cheryl while their kids were young. Dr. George approved their plans and gave them a 1yr lease. During the summer of 2002, they stripped the peeling gray paint and repainted the building a terra cotta to mimic brick. The current manager, Tony trained them for 6 weeks prior to his departure, while they worked on setting up contracts with the 8 largest movie studios..

They had their challenges early on. In their second week, they were forced to buy an electrical component, called an “exciter”, when the projector lamp would not light. This early purchase set them back $1000. Luckily, they were able to have the projector repaired before their next show.

In addition to the exciter, their were other unexpected costs and repairs during their run: a projector lamp ($500), lobby furnace ($1500), popcorn popper ($3500), auditorium furnace ($6500). And in Feb 2012, they upgraded to a brand new fully digital system ($80,000), enabling the theater to continue on in a digital age.

Jerry and Cheryl’s first show was Men in Black II, on Aug 2, 2002 at 7pm. Their last show was Star Trek: Into Darness on May 30, 2013. In the final “Jerry Show”, Jerry said, “I don’t know where I can stand up in front of a crowd and say stupid things” and then joked that, “Maybe I should consider a career in congress.”

1999- Aug 1 2002Dr. Deb George purchased and reopened The Bijou in 1999 after it had been closed for about a year. She leased the theater to Chris Helgens, then Tony Pirani who continued to improve the theater and keep it open. Tony, a student at Cornell College, graduated in 2002 and left to pursue a graduate law degree at the University of Iowa. His last show was Star Wars II- Attack of the Clones, on Aug 1, 2002.

Dr. Deb George owned the building through most of the years it was operated by Jerry and Cheryl. They eventually purchased the building for a complete package.

1995-1998

The movie theater was owned and operated by several individuals during these years and was renamed The Bijou after Valerie LeMasters held a naming contest. It was closed in 1998.

LARRY “MR. ODEUM” PERVIS Dec 5, 1975 – 1995

Larry Purvis began efforts to build a smaller movie theater, in the absence of the Strand Theater burned in 1975. He purchased the property on the corner of 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue. The old house on the land was demolished and Schoff Consruction Company of Lisbon began construction of the new movie theater.

Larry wanted a new, unique name for the theater. As the building neared completion, the structural colums reminded him of Greek architecture and inspired the new name: The Odeum. As a result, the building was painted gray with white columns to reflect the new name.

The Odeum opened its doors on December 5, 1975. It’s first film? The Towering Inferno. (fitting, isn’t it? – in light of the fate of the previous theater?) and over the next 20 years Larry became known as “Mr. Odeum”.

The original interior had a center isle and an enclosed “Mini Odi” for older, noisy teens to congregate in. Larry installed a door in the projection room so he could sit on top of the Mini Odi to watch the movie. This special seat later became known as “The Director’s Chair”.

(This door still exists and can be opened to a direct drop down onto the back row of seats. It was sighted as a safety hazzard on the latest building inspection. Look up to the right of the projector and you can see the door.)

Larry was forced to sell The Odeum when his knees made the stairs to the projection room difficult. Back in those days, the old 35 mm projectors required extra care. The projector had to be threaded, started and stopped for each show. (not to mention the films came in canisters and had to be taped together before they could be played…Thank you digital technology!!)

Larry still lives in Mount Vernon and is known to have visited the successive owners.

THE STRAND MOVIE THEATER Pre 1941 – Feb 1975

The original movie theater in Mount Vernon, called “The Strand” was on 1st Street where the Fire Station and City Hall are now located.

It was destroyed in February, 1975 by a fire that started in an adjoining building. Several buildings were destroyed in addition to The Strand.

“Talkies” were a global phenomenon by the early 1930’s. “The Strand Theater” would probably have shown some of these early gems when it was first built.