From Sydney’s beaches to a screen near you, the making of Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinemas

Name: Alex Khadra-Bosse

Company: Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinemas

Location: St Kilda, Bondi, Brisbane, Canberra

It was summer 2003 and the atmosphere around Sydney’s beaches was pretty lifeless. Alex Khadra-Bosse and his friends were struggling to find any summer entertainment, so they decided to create it themselves, kick-starting what was to become Ben and Jerry’s Openair Cinemas.

Khadra-Bosse describes the first summer event on Bondi beach as “pretty much a couple of friends putting a screen up, playing some tunes and then it just exploded”. Since then it’s developed from a group of friends watching movies on the beach and getting friends to spin tunes, into annual events around Australia with established Australian artists, emerging local musicians, and films ranging from retro classics to award-winning features and new releases.

In the past 10 years, the business has expanded from a bunch of mates having some summer fun to a business turning over between $1 and $3 million annually across four states and territories. At the beginning, Khadra-Bosse says the events doubled in popularity each year. Now, he has plans to continue the expansion of the business and it’s still growing strongly, with growth rates of 20-25% each year.

SmartCompany talked to Khadra-Bosse about the expansion plans, networking and marketing tactics.

Mornings

Khadra-Bosse never has a “typical day” thanks to the constant travelling required to run the business, but he does endeavour to start the day early.

“I to get to the office before the traffic hits, so I start the day pretty early. I try to squeeze in some exercise too, usually I do Yoga,” he says.

“I don’t have a set routine or regular hours or tasks as such due to travelling interstate regularly for meetings with suppliers, sponsors, venues or event teams. Since travelling takes up a lot of my time I always like to get an early start each morning to ensure everything is completed before the end of the working day.”

The Openair Cinema films are now shown on a 2000 high definition digital cinema system and attendees enjoy food and drink, while relaxing on picnic blankets, deckchairs and beanbags. The aim of this set-up is to create a “festival-like vibe” under the stars – one of its distinguishing features.

Daily life

Khadra-Bosse spends the majority of his time “touching base with stakeholders and sponsors”, but he says a lot of time is also dedicated to communicating and planning with his team.

“The fun part is really the diversity of each day. We’re dealing with a lot of different stake holders, from local councils, to suppliers. I’m always planning and negotiating with all the different people,” he says.

“My days often consist of meetings to lock in event details and screenings, and of course attending most of the events we run. The constant variety keeps it exciting.”

Unlike most businesses, Openair Cinemas has an “off season” and an “on season” and this affects the Khadra-Bosse’s workload and the number of staff the business employs.

“Depending on the off season or in season we have four to eight employees. We work kind of like an agency in terms of working on presentations,” he says.

Khadra-Bosse has worked hard to develop an engaging online platform to communicate with customers.

“We focus a lot on online and that’s basically where our audience spends most of the time either via mobile or any digital platform.

“We sell about 90% of our tickets online,” he says.

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