Although Netflix and other streaming services have helped fill the void, some Illawarra film enthusiasts couldn't wait for cinemas to re-open on Thursday.
"If you're a movie buff you'll understand," Figtree's Rose Cullen said.
"I used to go every week, sometimes a couple of times a week.
"I've got every streaming service you can practically get, but there's nothing like coming to the movies."
Mrs Cullen was among the patrons who attended the Gala Cinema at Warrawong for its re-opening on Thursday.
Another was Gary Oliver from Berkeley, a regular movie-goer. Love Sarah was his "first movie back after COVID".
"It's a very good feeling, because it's what I enjoy doing," he said.
"I have Netflix and use that a lot, but I also go to the movies two or three times a week on average.
"I'm a movie buff. I like any film that's a good film."
However, the COVID-19 pandemic means the cinema experience has changed somewhat.
The independent Gala Cinema temporarily closed its doors in late March.
Upon re-opening, long-time owner Ian Hyslop said new measures they would be required to put in place included hand sanitizers, cleaning of seats and cupholders after each session, and regular cleaning of door handles.
Their two screens will also operate at a reduced capacity.
Their 400-capacity main room will be cut down to no more than 100 patrons at once; and their 108-seat theatre reduced to 24 people at a time.
"We're working through it all," Mr Hyslop said.
"The biggest problem is suppliers (due to the pandemic), for things like stands to put the hand sanitizers down the front."
Mr Oliver said even when only a handful of punters were at a screening, it was a matter of using common sense with regard to hygiene and social distancing.
"I think people are keen to get back to the movies," he said.
Mrs Cullen went with some relatives on Thursday to see David Copperfield.
She wasn't deterred from attending by the pandemic.
"I know they're going to do the right thing," she said of the cinemas.
"We'll sit together because we're family, but I know I'm not going to be sitting next to somebody I don't know.
"There might be lots of people who won't want to come, but I'm not worried."
HOYTS, who also have a cinema at Warrawong, announced the re-opening of cinemas from Thursday.
The major cinema chains' schedules feature a number of releases from earlier in 2020, as well as some retro favourites.
Meanwhile, high-profile new films such as Tenet are scheduled for release in the coming months.
However, Mr Hyslop said he was skeptical that such blockbusters would gain a worldwide cinematic release "until America comes out of lockdown".
"Tenet's already been re-dated for August, and could be re-dated for later," he said.
"America is where the bulk of the money is, so until they can get the theatres opening over there, and get the COVID rate down... They're juggling dates.
"I expect a new release schedule with dates that were changed last week, (now to be) changed again."
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