men stading in front of the Bijou Theatre entrance

Exterior of the Bijou Theatre, 1909

The Bijou operated in what had previously been the Cosgrove Music Hall, at 91 Glen St. W. J. Miller and his son Grover saw potential in the space and decided to transform it into a nickelodeon. The Bijou Theatre officially opened May 18, 1909 with two moving picture shows “The Bridegrooms Dilemma” and “Casey’s Jumping Toothache”. It is likely that the gentlemen shown in the photograph includes owners Miller and son, as well as manager M. J. Scannell.

The Bijou advertised high-quality films accompanied by their own orchestra. After a quick closure for renovations and improvements, the theatre reopened with George Shackett as manager. Shackett vowed to give his customers their money’s worth and placed a renewed emphasis on customer service. He brought in popular singers and pictures from Association Films.

In 1911, Grover “Dusty” Miller took over as manager. He decided a complete renovation of the theatre was in order and again, closed the Bijou temporarily. During this time, the interior was repaired and repainted. A gallery of 75 seats was constructed and a new 9.5 x 13’ screen was installed. Later that year, a powerful No. 6 projection machine was installed. It was said to project a “perfectly flickerless” picture on the screen.

As testament to the success of the Bijou, the father and son team were said to have sold 180,000 tickets between December, 1912 and June, 1913. With a popular and reputable business established, the Millers looked forward to new challenges and sold the Bijou to John Bazinet.

In the years that followed, the theatre experienced a succession of owners, from John Bazinet to Charles Meyerson, to musician and composer Professor W. Leonard. Leonard faced increasing competition from not only the World in Motion, but from the Empire and Park theatres as well, both of which offered vaudeville along with film.

Courtesy of Andrea Matte