Most times divorce, that great American pastime, turns out to be sort of a good thing for everyone involved; witness the historic splitsville between Charlemagne and Desiderata, which set the stage for the eventual founding of the Holy Roman Empire. Victory civilization!
Similarly, when the Bijou Arts Cinema and Broadway Metro called it quits earlier this year (bit.ly/2e5TF1c), ending a somewhat strained business partnership, both theaters were suddenly free to go their own way like a couple of gay divorcees. What the split means for Eugene movie-lovers is that we now have two distinct theaters no longer tied down by fiscal concerns and programming conflicts, and how that’s panned out over the past year for both theaters is the emergence of separate identities that are distinct but not mutually exclusive.
True to its name, Broadway Metro has become a pragmatic purveyor of a kind of cinematic metropolitanism, offering a mixture of tasteful mainstream-ish products along with its continuing adherence to independent and offbeat cinema.
At the Bijou Art Cinemas, the focus has been more keen on bolstering its status as classic college-town arthouse, providing a strong selection of foreign films and off-Hollywood stuff, along with the offerings of modern auteurs and sharp political content, including cutting-edge documentaries.
Self-actualization is such a lovely thing when the bonds of co-dependence are broken, as is evidenced by the relative financial and aesthetic health both the Metro and the Bijou now enjoy.
“Before the separation, we happily carried the burden of trying to bring every good indie film to Eugene,” says Metro co-owner Ed Schiessl, adding that “being a stand-alone operation has freed our programming up enough to be able to include some high-end commercial product,” along with METROarts screenings of stage performances and the new “Baby & Me” screenings for parents with infants.
At the Bijou, owner Julie Blonshteyn says she’s “committed to bringing the finest offering in independent cinema to the Eugene community,” calling the theater a “quasi-clubhouse” where discussions on film often break out in the lobby. “There are plenty of other choices for mass-market films,” Blonshteyn adds, “but true film-lovers know the best in arthouse fare can be found at the Bijou.”