The Openair Cinema has only been running for 10 years but it’s already a Bondi institution. From these humble beginnings, Alex Khadra-Bosse is now taking the festival around Australia.
After noticing a lack of summer evening activities in Bondi, Khadra-Bosse and a few mates put up a screen on the beach and sat down to watch a movie. Since 2003, attendance doubled each year, quickly leading to expansion in other cities around Australia.
Khadra-Bosse lets us in on how a summer favourite came to life.
How did you get the idea for an outdoor cinema?
The idea started as something I noticed 10 years ago in Bondi. Basically outside of the bars and restaurants, there is actually quite a lack of summer evening activities around the Beach. So I just got some friends together, we put up a screen to show some movies, I had some DJ friends playing tunes prior, and that’s how it all started.
It’s all meant to be quite laid back, relaxed – bean bags and blankets on the lawn and a movie and that’s it! Since then, we have successfully expanded to Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra.
What are the biggest challenges you face putting the festival together?
The toughest variables are always the ones you can’t control, such as the weather.
How do you deal with weather issues?
We always want to make sure our customers are looked after. If an event is rained out, the customers can exchange tickets for another screening. Luckily we run very long seasons, so it always balances out.
Can you talk about the journey from a gathering of friends to a booming business?
What started as something that was very laid back, grew very quickly. In the first few years, attendance was doubling every year so we started seeing the business in it. It’s definitely bigger than the old days of just my mates holding a ladder while I hook up the screen!
In Bondi, this is one of the core summer events, and we invest heavily in the best equipment available to making it as great as possible. We are now running a full 2K HD digital projector, stereo surround sound with a state-of-the-art silver screen, which entails a construction team to put up.
It’s a big undertaking: we start about a week prior to opening night to allow for enough set up time.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
There is always a solution to any problem, behind every challenge lies an opportunity.
How do you see the business evolving in the future?
We want Openair to be accessible to all Australians.
Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to?
Anybody who takes a risk, leaves the trodden path, trusts his gut feelings, and puts his whole heart into a project.
What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs?
An idea is not enough, talk to potential customers, and write a business plan, before you start.