Developers and designers with different philosophies wrestle with the realities of how entertainment has breathed new life into the mall experience.
What are the components of an entertainment shopping center? Is entertainment retail an experience or a destination type? Who provides the entertainment experience, owners or tenants? What is the role of architecture in an entertainment center and how does it make the center unique?
Forty years ago, developers wrestled with these same questions, minus the word "entertainment." Indeed, malls remain the original form of retail entertainment: clusters of shops, boutiques and department stores aiming to provide all things exciting, thrilling and wonderful in any product category a consumer could possibly want.
Coming of age At their birth, malls startled main street retailers with a new and successful format, collecting numerous shops under one roof. Over the years, however, the concept has lost its freshness.
Today, entertainment retail has startled traditional mall and power center developers and retailers with a fresh format, one that aims, in various guises, at a single, fundamental goal: to revive the sense of place and community that was lost when mall retail replaced main street retail.
David Cordish, president of the Baltimore-based Cordish Co., takes a purist's approach to entertainment retail. According to Cordish, entertainment retail has developed into a specific format that includes themed restaurants, night clubs, book stores, music stores, contemporary arcades and cinemas, but no fashion retail.
Current Cordish projects include the Power Plant in Baltimore and Bayou Place in Houston. Both aim to merge with the sense of place of existing urban gathering places.
The Power Plant, adjacent to the Baltimore Inner Harbor, features Hard Rock Cafe, which opened last year. Tenants slated for openings later this year include Second City Comedy Club; a Barnes & Noble superstore with books, music, and a small cafe; and a Disney concept called ESPN Grill, which will offer a sports bar and virtual arcade games, as well as live broadcasts of "Extreme Sports" events.
Bayou Place offers an eight-screen Angelika theater specializing in art films and a 50,000 sq. ft. performance hall by Pace Entertainment. Between these two anchors, Bayou Place houses a blues club, a jazz club, several themed restaurants and a billiards bar.
"Bayou Place is in Houston's theater district," Cordish says. "It [targets] an upscale white collar audience, while the Power Plant in Baltimore is more for a family audience." Both developments will rely on traffic that is 50 percent tourist and 50 percent local.
Cordish says the key to success for pure entertainment retail is a location near other attractions. The Power Plant, which in its other incarnations failed a number of times over the years, sits next to the Inner Harbor, within a stone's throw of the popular Aquarium, and close to the city's convention center and football and baseball stadiums.
"Entertainment retail generates demand by adding attractions," Cordish says. "That's not true of fashion retailing. There is only so much demand for shirts and sweaters."
People generators Yaromir Steiner, founding principal of Miami-based Steiner + Associates Inc., dislikes the term entertainment retail center. "We call these developments leisure time destinations," Steiner says. "The primary purpose of a customer's visit is what makes a center into a leisure time destination. If customers come to a center to spend leisure time, then it is what the industry calls an entertainment center. If customers come to shop, then it is a shopping center."
According to Steiner, three components make up leisure time destinations: architecture, people generators, and programming or marketing. "A leisure time destination has distinctive architecture that aims to make people feel good," Steiner says. "Original malls with enclosed corridors and stores on both sides are shopping destinations. A leisure destination has a more comfortable and human side to its design."
People generators, says Steiner, include theaters, museums, concert halls, restaurants and night clubs. But none of these by themselves can create a leisure time destination. Steiner's idea is that people generators will attract people, not necessarily to see a movie but to do something -- anything fun -- where other people are.
"You don't want to go to a beautiful place without other people," he says. "You want to go where other people are doing things."
Square one: animated design To build that essential traffic, says Steiner, a center must use programming and marketing to add spark to a development with new and exciting events. "In marketing a conventional mall, you advertise or create events to bring people into shop," says Steiner, adding that a leisure destination must attempt to build both local and tourist traffic.
"In a leisure time destination, animating the space brings people, and the people in turn provide the attraction for other people," he notes. "Our company believes that this kind of destination must aim to attract local residents, who will then attract visitors to the community, because this is the place where the local people go."
Steiner has implemented his ideas about leisure time destinations in two quite different projects: CocoWalk in Coconut Grove, Fla. and Easton Town Center, currently under development just north of Columbus, Ohio.
Steiner describes 160,000 sq. ft. CocoWalk as a community akin to the Village in New York, with diverse Bohemian, artsy, well-to-do and other groups all milling around together. CocoWalk provides attractions for people in the community, which then creates a destination for visitors.
The development includes six restaurants, a comedy club, a dance club, an eight-plex cinema and a number of fashion retailers including Banana Republic, The Gap and Victoria's Secret.
Easton Town Center, at 640,000 sq. ft., aims to be the core of a 1,200-acre community in the making. "The public doesn't exist here yet," says Steiner, who is co-developing the project with the New York-based Georgetown Co. "In Coconut Grove, you can build CocoWalk with six restaurants. People will come to these restaurants or one of the other eight restaurants in the community. The critical mass is already there.
"At Easton, we have to create a critical mass and build a leisure time destination that people will visit 25 or 30 times a year," he continues. "So here, we'll provide 15 restaurants and many more people generators."
Plans for the project include Planet Movies by AMC, a new entertainment concept that combines a 30-screen, 6,200-seat, AMC mega-plex movie theater with a Planet Hollywood restaurant in 150,000 sq. ft. The project also features the Official All Star Cafe, 100,000 sq. ft. of entertainment retail, 125,000 sq. ft. of specialty retail and a big-box destination store. The development's mixed-use component includes 300 residential units, and a 300 room hotel and conference center.
Don't forget the retailers Courtney Lord, president of Alexandria, Va.-based Lord Associates, takes a different view of entertainment retail. "We're still in the shopping center business," says Lord. "What makes an entertainment center is entertaining retailers. Obviously, a theater is an entertainment tenant. Then there are amusement tenants like Dave & Busters and GameWorks. But when you add up the number of entertainment tenants in a mall, what does that mean to a 150-store shopping center?
"Top retailers today are those that create an entertaining environment and do more than simply slap merchandise on a rounder," he continues. "Today, traditional regional malls are looking for exciting merchants as well as restaurants and entertainment tenants. These are the centers that are thriving."
Mark Congel, leasing director for The Pyramid Cos., Syracuse, N.Y., agrees. "What consumers demand today is an entertainment component," Congel says. "We break the business down into retailing, entertainment and amusements. Amusements are places like Camp Snoopy, and we're not interested in that. We're interested in retailing and in entertainment, and we don't separate those two concepts."
For Pyramid, entertainment retail combines entertainment and retail in every tenant. "Is Barnes & Noble entertainment or retail?" Congel asks. "We think it's both."
Palisades Center in West Nyack, N.Y., approximately 20 miles north of Manhattan represents Pyramid's concept of a modern entertainment retail center. It includes Dave & Busters, Jeepers!, Rainforest Cafe, a megaplex theater, and other themed restaurants. The retailer mix is rounded out by such specialty shops as Barnes & Noble, The Disney Store, Eddie Bauer, Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and The Gap.
Category retailers play a role in the Palisades Center mix as well. One wing of the center houses Sports Authority, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Jo-Ann Etc. CompUSA and Staples also have stores in this wing, the first mall appearance for each of these big-box retailers.
Palisades Center also houses power anchors such as Home Depot and Target as well as traditional department store anchors such as JCPenney and Lord & Taylor.
"Our goal for Palisades Center was to accommodate the needs of all of these different retailers, while creating a convenient environment for shoppers to shop, be entertained, and [be compelled to] stay longer," Congel says. "We wanted the architecture to contribute to shopping comfort and convenience. There are wide, well-lighted corridors, clusters of elevators, a lot of vertical transportation and more common area seating. At the center court, for example, there are a couple hundred bleacher seats."
Entertainment value, community style "Certain cities will always have a certain type of retail and entertainment unavailable elsewhere," says Deborah Simon, senior vice president of entertainment development for Indianapolis-based Simon DeBartolo Group Inc.
In other words, different locations create different opportunities for entertainment retail. Simon DeBartolo Group's newly expanded Forum Shops at Caesars in Las Vegas, for example, provides an entertainment retail experience no other city can match. Then again, The Forum Shops would be out of place in Knoxville, Tenn., where Simon DeBartolo recently transformed its East Town Mall into Knoxville Center.
The center's renovated design now carries themes tailored to the unique daily experience of a university town. "We didn't spend a lot of money," Simon says. "But we renovated the center around the theme of the Volunteers of the University of Tennessee. We're also adding a Regal megaplex with stadium seating. Entertainment retailing can be as little as that. Or it can be as elaborate as the Shops at Sunset Place in Miami."
The company's Sunset Place project, set to open this September, will be a 500,000 sq. ft. retail and entertainment complex designed as an open air festival marketplace. The center will include a 24-screen AMC and IMAX theater complex, FAO Schwarz, Barnes & Noble, GameWorks, NikeTown, Virgin Megastore, Z Gallerie, and numerous themed restaurants, including Johnny Rockets. An additional 200,000 sq. ft. of specialty stores round out the roster, such as Armani A/X, Banana Republic, Brookstone, The Disney Store, The Gap and Store of Knowledge.
Sunset Place's design features three themed areas. First, The Banyan Court hosts regularly scheduled Florida thunderstorms, complete with tropical thunder and lightning effects. Nearby, the Grand Stairway presides over waterfalls, a grotto and pools of water. Above the stairs, an elevator tower leads to parking and the open sky, which at night is filled with a laser light show.
Lastly, Sunset Place features the Plaza, anchored by a circular stage designed to accommodate live concerts and celebrity appearances. Next to the stage, a Caribbean island floats on a sea of water. Throughout the Plaza, the Stairway and Banyan Court, visitors encounter the sights and sounds of South Florida.
Just as the Shops at Sunset Place is custom designed to match its Miami home, The Denver Pavilions aims to feed on and enhance the character of downtown Denver. The 350,000 sq. ft. center, under development by Chicago-based Arthur Hill and Co., will open late in 1998.
The project will host a 13-screen theater and entertainment retailers such as NikeTown, Virgin Megastore, Barnes & Noble, Hard Rock Cafe, Wolfgang Puck Cafe, and a mix of specialty retailers.
According to Kevin Gazely, vice president of Arthur Hill and Co., The Pavilions will focus on three distinct groups of customers typical of downtown areas. The first group includes both convention and tourist traffic, which is somewhat transient and more of an evening market. Both want shopping, restaurants and entertainment, Gazely says.
The downtown Denver office worker also is in the center's sights. Apparel is important for this audience, along with entertaining restaurants for lunch and clubs for after work. Third, as more and more people are returning to live in the city, The Pavilions will serve new downtown residents, with food, theater, apparel shopping and evening entertainment.
"An important part of entertainment is being with people," Gazely says. "We're designing a people place, where people can gather and do things together," Gazely says. "And we've put this gathering place right in the heart of downtown Denver."
Rocky Mountain ties Just to the south of Denver, Park Meadows, a 1.5 million sq. ft. project by San Diego-based TrizecHahn Centers, has keyed its design to the Rocky Mountains and ski slopes surrounding Denver. The center, says David Malmuth, TrizecHahn's senior vice president of development, draws a clear distinction between yesterday's malls and today's entertainment centers.
"Malls are generic," he says. "Conventional malls can be located anywhere. At Park Meadows, we wanted to build something distinctively Denver in terms of style, appeal, materials and architecture."
Park Meadows' planning diagram resembles that of any conventional mall. However, Park Meadows' principal architect Anthony Belluschi forbids the use of the word mall in connection with Park Meadows. Belluschi, principal with Chicago-based Anthony Belluschi Architects, calls Park Meadows a retail resort.
"The malls of yesteryear are gone," he says. "A whole new list of principles define what a shopping center is today. Entertainment is high on that list. So is creating a sense of place and community."
Entertainment and sense of place and community may be one in the same thing when it comes to contemporary shopping center design. Instead of traditional mall architecture, Belluschi used a ski lodge motif at Park Meadows. The patina copper roof rises to peaks and gables and juts out into cupolas, while stone columns support the structure. The single-level east side of the center offers surface parking and an outdoor stroll along a main-street villa of shops and restaurants.
"Park Meadows has a sense of place that is so singular and so connected to the region that it would look ridiculous anywhere else," says Henry Beer, principal with Boulder, Colo.-based CommArts Inc., which handled the lighting and graphic design at Park Meadows. "This gives people a sense of ownership. It's part of their world, and they come back again and again, because they like the way they feel when they are here."
Singular sensations While its Denver surroundings may have helped shape Park Meadows' rustic, lodge-like flair, Times Square in New York is likely to inspire entertainment retail of a different color. According to John T. Livingston, president and chief operating officer for New York-based Tishman Urban Development Corp., the bustling location -- 25 to 30 million tourists and countless New Yorkers pass through each year -- will require an ambitious entertainment retail effort.
"It's a unique location, what I call a 'branded location,'" he says. Tishman, in an attempt to properly fit the site, is developing a 200,000 sq. ft., low-rise entertainment and retail project called eWalk. With tenants such as themed restaurant Vegas! and a 13-screen Sony Theaters, plans also call for a 10-story meteor shaped "boutique" hotel above the retail project, as well as an adjacent 45-story hotel tower. A dozen Times Square-style billboards will eventually garnish the architecture.
According to Livingston, unique retail is eWalk's cornerstone. "In developing an entertainment retail property, you start with a theater, go to themed restaurants and arcades, and then bring in unique retailers, indigenous to the area.
"Unique retail is vital," he continues. "If we just do the same national tenants that are in all the malls around the country, we will have failed. We want to do local New York retailers, including restaurants and merchandise."
Beyond in-line As Courtney Lord points out, "We're still in the shopping center business."
And the shopping center world, today as always, searches for unique retailers to populate unique locations. And with each new concept signed to a center's roster, the center category lines continue to blur. Therefore, the true definition of entertainment retail can be as much an experience anchored in imagination as it is a unique destination with its own anchors, tenants and locale-inspired amenities.
The difference between today's retailers and the simple mall tenants of yesterday is that tenants have come to include many other categories, including cinema, themed restaurants and experiences, recreation, and arcades. Each new retailer has helped to inspire developers and managers to deliver centers that provide a strong sense of place rather than a simple neutral backdrop.
And that's retail entertainment.
Michael Fickes is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.
Technology and high design give today's megaplexes a traffic draw of palatial proportions.
Evoking the grand architectural styles and classic metaphors of the "golden age" of Hollywood, a new era of movie palace is being built across the country. There is good reason for this trend: According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, 1996 was a record year in theater sales: 1.4 billion tickets were sold in all, sparking revenues of nearly $6 billion.
In response to these returns, this new movie palace generation features adventuresome architecture, grand, glittering marquees and glamorous lobbies. Further, these megaplexes (not mere multiplexes anymore) are often found as anchors of sprawling entertainment centers -- they are a major generator of traffic, but they also attract shoppers who might only have come to the complex to shop.
Responding to demand It has been estimated that some 10 percent of audience members' time is spent outside the motion picture viewing area, in the theater lobby and other areas. Thus, the lobbies and entrances to theaters have been literally transformed into experiential environments full of visual and visceral appeal.
Many of these new theater projects are unrecognizable next to the less ambitious mini and megaplex developments of yesterday. These projects include giant, 66-ft. high screens that cover 6-story walls; curved screens to increase viewers' visibility; and bowl-shaped auditoriums with stadium seating, to assure the row forward is well below personal sight lines.
These new features are housed in the grandest of modern auditoriums that are adorned with brass railings, imported granite floors and lush velvet curtains. This level of detail proves a marked difference between the multiplexes of yesterday, where a more utilitarian, Spartan design once prevailed.
Theater grandeur This formula for success has accelerated the commissioning of these new theaters, many of which can be found in Southern California. The area is both an incubator and catalyst for grand movie palaces.
At Irvine Spectrum, owned by The Irvine Co., Irvine, Calif., an Edwards 21 Cinemas with an IMAX theater led the way in late 1995, opening as the largest motion picture complex in the nation and the epitome of this new megaplex model.
The theater's massive front facade reflects the show-biz style and flair of Hollywood, with two 80-ft. icon towers supporting an old-fashioned marquee. Special light beacons and lush, tropical landscaping reinforce the North African Moorish ambiance and movie palace pizzazz that characterize Southern California earlier in the century. The 15,000 sq. ft. lobby, with a width of 96 feet, is so large it has the appearance of a performing arts center or opera house lobby.
The Spectrum's theater entrances are grand gateways, designed as rotundas to create an impressive, visual experience and to capture an old-style movie palace mood. The theater itself is adorned in marble from Italy, Greece, South Africa and Tunisia, with vibrant murals and majestic staircases, Art Deco-inspired, polished stainless steel and brass ornamentation, mosaic floors, and more than 3 miles of neon. A 100-ft.-long snack bar dominates the lobby, supported by seven additional concession areas within the theater.
Sixteen of the theaters seat between 200 and 250 moviewatchers, while four themed auditoriums -- the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Palace and the Hollywood -- seat 550.
Amenities within the theater have also improved, including high back seats and armrests with built-in cupholders designed for large drinks; movable armrests for increased ease; infrared-assisted listening devices for the hearing impaired that provide clear sound.
The 3D IMAX theater at Irvine Spectrum, one of only three in the United States, is a world unto itself. The theater features a 90-ft. screen (large enough to project a life-size image of a whale) and IMAX's PSE personal sound system.
The PSE technology is an innovative advancement in three-dimensional sound imaging, which allows filmmakers to more effectively match sound with moving images. The theaters' 80-speaker, six channel digital sound system is enhanced by an additional pair of sound channels (transducers) built into each viewer's personal headset device.
The Edwards 22 theater complex with 3D IMAX at Ontario Mills in Ontario, Calif., opened in 1996, also has an Art Deco look with similarly named and decorated themed theaters to the Edwards complex at the Irvine Spectrum. In many ways, it is the next generation, benefiting from what has been learned at Irvine. Its lobby gateways are more defined, and its Grand Palace theater, seating 780, is the largest stadium-style theater on the West Coast.
Rewriting history Each of the movie palaces designed by Perkowitz + Ruth combine new technologies with a sense of respect and tribute for the qualities of comfort, style and glamour that made the golden age of moviegoing such an attractive form of escapism. Some designs are contemporary; others evoke a previous time in history.
Also, the transformation of theaters from the small "miniplex" to grand "megaplex" is a recognition of the growing importance of urban entertainment venues that use theaters as anchor tenants. The competition for the consumers' time has also created greater competition for moviegoer dollars; these megaplexes rich in amenities and visual imagery offer a compact form of entertainment for the time-challenged consumer.
The new movie palaces are the classic synergy. Recognizing the appeal of designs of the past, they are woven into a theater experience that is entirely a product of the late 20th century. Each era and style combine to meet the needs and desires of an increasingly modern age.
Simon Perkowitz is president of Perkowitz+Ruth Architects Inc., a Newport Beach, Calif.-based designer of urban centers throughout the United States that blend entertainment, retail and hospitality elements.