Wollongong may be mourning the loss of Choc-tops and oversized cokes with the indefinite closure of Greater Union, but independent cinema is going to weather the storm.
The Event Cinema group chose to close the Burelli Street theatre complex until further notice this week, citing the financial pressures of COVID-19 and lack of Hollywood content being released.
But for the Gala Cinema in Warrawong, their continued operation doesn't rely so heavily on what James Bond or Marvel heroes might be doing.
"Chain theatres are geared for the blockbusters ... and when you look at it, they don't take a lot of other product," Gala owner Ian Hyslop said.
Mr Hyslop said chain cinemas would only take two or three titles from nine on a release schedule for a given week. Whereas independent cinema could add more variety to what's showing.
Unpredictability still comes with the territory though, as the schedules for release continue to change each week due to "film companies changing their mind".
Heading into Christmas he expected several Australian movies to entice audiences back, like Rams with Sam Neill, Michael Caton and Asher Keddie or Never Too Late with Jack Thompson, Shane Jacobson and Jackie Weaver.
But Mr Hyslop didn't see revenue at the box office to significantly change for up to a year. Regardless, he will continue stocking the candy bar for the entertainment of audiences, which range from two to 40 people each session.
"It's so erratic," he said. "I can't see a lot of places really getting back on track - cafes or anything like that - for about another year, it's very awkward.
"[Our trading] is up and down - some days you're doing great, other days you're going 'oh no'."
Mr Hyslop said there had been a noticeable shift in demographics of cinema-goers, despite restrictions beginning to ease, with the majority over the age of 30 and watching day-time sessions.
He blamed this on social distancing and a fear of crowds, along with the "garbage on Netflix".
Greater Union Wollongong may still have the same decades-old uncomfortable seating and is without the fancy electric leather recliners as seen in larger complexes, but it's closure has drawn many tears.
"So many good times there," posted Steve Dwyer on the Illawarra Mercury Facebook page. "Movie special treat, popcorn and the messy choc top ice cream."
The cinema was the first time watching a film in Australia for Syed Aamir Sajjad, who moved from Pakistan to study.
"I still remember watching Matrix Peacemaker Eraser and many others," he said. "[This] image of the cinema brought back many memories."
Though some readers were not surprised by the "temporary" closure.
"That cinema is old and terrible," wrote Nikki Gallagher. "Most people I know prefer to stream their movies at home these days unless it's a really big movie or they have a kid that's begging [to go]."
"It's sad to see it look so run down and unloved, this cinema used to get so packed out when I was a kid you couldn't even move," wrote Robyn Wilson.
Illawarra Business Chamber executive director Adam Zarth said if the closure of the Burelli Street complex was to become permanent, it would have flow-on economic effects.
"Wollongong is in an ongoing state of evolution as a city, as older buildings and facilities are being replaced by new ones," Mr Zarth said.
"What's important is that council operates an efficient and open-minded approvals processes for new developments to ensure that investment in the city continues."
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