‘I’ve never had a job’: Cinema boss’s 22-year survival story


FOR 22 years people have been telling Nick Struik they’re going to put him out of business.

The Big Screen Cinemas Caloundra owner says if he’d taken each threat seriously he’d have hardly slept.

Instead he’s woken up each morning with one goal, to get a positive result before he goes to bed at night.

It’s kept the historic cinema in good stead, as it’s continued to serve as the conduit between the southern Sunshine Coast and Hollywood.

“Every year someone’s going to build a new cinema in Caloundra,” he said.

 

HAPPY: Owner of Big Screen Cinemas Caloundra Nick Struik (left) says the business has been thriving for 22 years, despite constant changes and new cinema developments cropping up. With Nick are Mandy McClarence, Anthony Struik and Murray Power.

HAPPY: Owner of Big Screen Cinemas Caloundra Nick Struik (left) says the business has been thriving for 22 years, despite constant changes and new cinema developments cropping up. With Nick are Mandy McClarence, Anthony Struik and Murray Power. Patrick Woods

The former professional swimming coach took on the role of operations manager at his mate’s cinema complex in Gympie while juggling duties at the pool.

“That was my introduction,” the 58-year-old Pelican Waters local said.

On the pool deck from 5am and still at the cinema at 11pm, the experience was preparing Mr Struik well.

He launched what he understood to be the first dive-in movies at a public pool in Australia, in Middlemount, before Mr Struik and his two brothers became cinema bosses.

They own cinemas in Hervey Bay, Gladstone and Caloundra and were former owners of the Bundaberg cinema which they sold to Reading.

Event Cinemas is preparing to open its new cinema complex to the public at Kawana Shoppingworld on November 29.

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STILL AROUND: Nick Struik (left) and son Anthony Struik.

STILL AROUND: Nick Struik (left) and son Anthony Struik. Patrick Woods

Event is promising ground-breaking experiences in the new cinemas, while there are also plans for cinemas in the new Kawana Town Centre.

Stockland has recently lodged plans for a new six-theatre cinema and tavern as part of an expansion of its Caloundra shopping centre, just down the road from Mr Struik’s cinema, which have stood since 1932 on Bulcock St.

Mr Struik said his business drew up to 9000 people a week into Bulcock St and he wasn’t focusing too much attention on the nearby application.

He said cinemas needed population to sustain them and two cinemas couldn’t survive long-term in such close proximity.

He said 9000 people a week was a lot to lose out of the CBD and he thought the next cinema in Caloundra should be at Aura, where the future population would be concentrated.

 

BUSY: Nick Struik (right) and son Anthony, are ready for another busy festive season.

BUSY: Nick Struik (right) and son Anthony, are ready for another busy festive season. Patrick Woods

“If they (decision makers) think there’s enough business to sustain both, they’re on a different footy field,” he said.

“Our family business model, it’s not a model that can be achieved by any corporate.

“Every cent I put into this community is my money. I love this community and I want to continue to be a part of it. We don’t pretend to be anything we’re not.”

When Mr Struik first took on the business he was advised strongly against it.

The building was in receivership and the cinema had gone broke twice before, but he struck up a deal with the new landlord within five minutes.

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He said it was simply “right time, right place”.

“I’ve fed my family for 22 years,” he said.

“I’ve never had a job, I’ve only ever had a life.”

The success has been hard-earned though. 

Mr Struik recalled the early days, working 14 hours a day, seven days a week and gruelling split shifts, to make the cinema a success.

“We did what we needed to do,” he said.

 

AMAZING: Owen Bennedick and his daughter Sarah from the Wappa Falls observatory at a display at the cinemas.

AMAZING: Owen Bennedick and his daughter Sarah from the Wappa Falls observatory at a display at the cinemas. Jason Dougherty

The rise of streaming services like Netflix added another dimension to the business, but surprisingly, Mr Struik doesn’t fear the threat those services may pose.

“I don’t care where people see movies, as long as they keep watching movies,” he said.

He believed Netflix had even helped cinemas, as it had increased demand for uninterrupted viewing.

“We’ve been very lucky that we’re still here,” he said.

“Everyday I’m thankful for all the people that support us.”

His cinema employed 15-20 staff at any one time, mostly local school-age children or young mums seeking flexibility.

“It’s no palace, but it works, it services the need the of the people,” he said.

“It is what it is, it’s affordable.”

Mr Struik’s son Anthony has worked in the business long-term as well and Mr Struik said the key was to treat staff like human beings, not numbers.

His coaching and business motto is to keep it simple, stupid, which explained why there was only one ticket price.

Plus he said people were just “too smart” for gimmicks these days.

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“I’m still the best vomit and toilet cleaner but I still can’t master the art of the perfect choc tops,” he said.

“We’ve got the best choc tops in Australia I reckon.”

The father-of-two and grandfather loves to cruise around on his bike, “no lycra”, and play golf in his spare time and reckons there’s an opportunity for high-rise development along Bulcock St, as it wouldn’t impede on the amenity of Caloundra’s popular beaches.

As for his favourite movie of all time, he said he can’t go past The Usual Suspects.





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