Shopping centers have always been about more than shopping. Before the rise of Internet-based social interaction, malls were a workplace, gathering place and pop culture petri dish for the better part of two generations. That made them the perfect backdrops for the kinds of films that filled the '80s and '90s — for the most part geographically ambiguous, lost-in-the-crowd tales of teen angst, budding (or imploding) romance, the everyman chafing under the yoke of social hierarchy and the bullies that come with it. In short, the mall setting was a grown-up version of the childhood playground — and, perhaps most important, a place that would look fairly familiar to everyone.
Few malls have racked up as many screen credits as the beige behemoth of Beverly Boulevard has since it opened in 1982. And, unlike many malls featured on film, it usually plays itself. It appeared in 1991's "Scenes From a Mall," serving as the very recognizable set piece behind the unraveling marriage of Woody Allen and Bette Midler. Six years later, it played its second-largest role, fitted out as an emergency triage and command center threatened by geysers of molten lava (and Tommy Lee Jones' scowl) in 1997's "Volcano."
Other movies with scenes set in or filmed at the Beverly Center include "Body Double," "Ruthless People" and a 1985 horror film called "Chopping Mall."
Beverly Center, 8500 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
Del Amo Fashion Center
Its food court made a cameo in 1983's "Valley Girls," and it served as the backdrop to Billy Bob Thornton's 2003 mall-robbing, Father-Christmas-as-con-man movie "Bad Santa." But the most high-profile role for the sprawling Torrance shopping center — once the largest indoor mall in the world — was in the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film "Jackie Brown," an adaptation of Elmore Leonard's novel "Rum Punch."
When the movie director changed the book's Miami locale to the South Bay, he set several key scenes in the Del Amo Fashion Center and others in the parking lot outside.
Del Amo Fashion Center, 3525 Carson St., Torrance
Dixie Square Mall
You may not be familiar with the name, but you've more than likely seen the car chase that sets the pace for John Landis' 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers." The mall in Harvey, Ill., opened in 1966, closed in 1978 but lives on in a scene that starts with the Bluesmobile crashing in through a Toys R Us, and ends 21/2 minutes later as it exits the shopping center through a J.C. Penney. The wild ride in between is punctuated by calm observations from Jake and Elwood Blues — "Disco pants and haircuts," "This mall has everything" and "The new Oldsmobiles are in early this year!"
Although it has been closed for more than 30 years, the crumbling façade of the building still stands, and has long attracted curious movie fans. But not much longer, according to a city representative, who said demolition is finally scheduled to begin in mid-December.
Dixie Square Mall, 151st Street to 154th Street and Dixie Highway, Harvey, Ill.
Although it's referred to as the San Dimas Mall in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989), this Phoenix mall served as the setting for the interior shopping center scenes during which the duo introduces their posse of historical greats — including Sigmund Freud, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and Beethoven — to the place where, as Bill puts it, "the people of today's world hang out."
If you haven't seen it lately, it's worth watching just to see Genghis Khan go berserk in a sporting goods store, beheading a mannequin with a metal baseball bat before trying to escape on a skateboard. And don't even get us started about Joan of Arc commandeering an exercise class.
Metrocenter Mall, 9617 Metro Parkway West, Phoenix
George Romero's use of this shopping center east of Pittsburgh as the setting for his 1978 horror flick "Dawn of the Dead" established the mall as the go-to destination for legions of zombies for years to come. Although it has played a bit part in other kinds of movies since (including 1983's "Flashdance," which includes shots of the ice-skating rink, and Kevin Smith's "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" in 2008), it's best-known for its connection to all things zombie and has even spawned an annual Zombie Fest, which takes place each October in nearby Pittsburgh.
Monroeville Mall, Business Route 22, Monroeville, Penn.
Puente Hills Mall
Exterior shots of the Twin Pines/Lone Pine Mall for 1985's "Back to the Future" were taken at this Southern California shopping center, with Christopher Lloyd's Doc Brown using one of the mall parking lots as a place to test drive his time-traveling DeLorean.
Ever since, the site has held a special place in the hearts of the film franchise's fans. Last year the mall celebrated the movie's 25th anniversary with a week-long celebration and the dedication of a memorial plaque. Movie crews were back on the scene this summer — with the aforementioned DeLorean — to make a short film that would accompany the recent charity auction of Nike shoes inspired by the self-lacing pair worn by Michael J. Fox's Marty McFly.
Puente Hills Mall 1600 Azusa Ave., City of Industry
Sherman Oaks Galleria
Most of the off-campus action in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1982) takes place at the fictional Ridgemont Mall, the exterior of which was represented by the now-renovated Santa Monica Place. The interiors, though, were set at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, which rivals the Beverly Center for the number of times it's popped up in popular culture. The galleria's screen credits include "Commando," "Innerspace" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" as well as exterior shots for 1983's "Valley Girl."
Alas, like many aging screen icons, the shopping center has been so thoroughly updated in the intervening years it bears little resemblance to its former self.
Sherman Oaks Galleria, 15301-15303 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
In 1990's "Clueless," Alicia Silverstone's Cher Horowitz tells us that when she feels "impotent and out of control" she has to find sanctuary in a place where she can gather her thoughts and regain her strength. Cut to the façade of the Westside Pavilion, to which Cher and her crew decamp to get their shop on.
Westside Pavilion, 10800 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
When Kevin James rolled his Segway into cinema infamy as "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" (2009) the interior shots were filmed at Burlington Mall, with two other Massachusetts malls — South Shore Plaza in Braintree and Northshore Mall in Peabody — serving as additional locations.
Burlington Mall, 75 Middlesex Turnpike, Burlington, Mass.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times