Australia may be in the grip of drought and its farmers praying for rain, but for film fans the big dry means warm, balmy nights watching movies under the stars. Each summer moviegoers are given the chance to leave the cavernous multi-cinema complexes for outdoor movies on a picnic blanket in a park, on a rocky point jutting into Sydney Harbour or a sandy beach seat at Bondi. Open air cinemas are not a new phenonema in Australia. In the early 1900s roofless cinemas and drive-ins dotted the land, but the arrival of air-conditioning was their death knell. But in recent years outdoor cinemas have popped up like mushrooms after the rain, running between December and March when the days are hot and the nights warm and usually dry. "Chilling out with friends at the movies on a warm summer's night appeals more than going to a big multiplex," said Bondi Open Air Cinema founder Alexander Khadra-Bosse. "Its the lifestyle of the Australian people. They love being outdoors and love seeing movies under the stars."
At Bondi, movie fans often arrive at the open air cinema in the beach pavilion wearing wet bathers and carrying a sandy towel. "They come straight off the beach. We have some blankets for them because they can get cold during the movie," said Khadra-Bosse. The Bondi amphitheatre is one of Australia's oldest, but for decades it was left unused, its stage a sheltered place for seagulls to escape biting onshore sea breezes. Five years ago Khadra-Bosse, a veteran of the film industry, decided to raise the curtain on the old amphitheatre, believing Sydney needed an avant garde open air cinema. "The Bondi Beach area has a lot of young and creative people, artists. I felt in Bondi there was an opportunity to mix DJs, local bands and films and make it sunset film festival," he said. Before the film, moviegoers are entertained by a DJ or band as they gather on grass, some lounging in bean bags. This year's Brazilian surf film "Surfing Favela", set in Rio de Janeiro's slums, will see a Brazilian festival of food, capoeira and music. Being a few steps from the sand, the Bondi Openair films are a mix of arthouse and ocean-related movies. Each year "Jaws", the story of a monster shark, is a popular favourite and the sticky, salt air coming off the ocean adds to the suspense. Surf films always attract a big local crowd of suntanned boardriders and bikini-glad women. Khadra-Bosse opened a second open air cinema in 2007 in the sea baths at St Kilda, a bohemian suburb of Melbourne.