The complexity of the pandemic is leaving malls flustered as they try to make ends meet.
The empty mall parking spaces are a reminder of how coronavirus has changed our daily lives. For mall owners and store managers, it's a sign of income lost and sales that are not happening. Retailers are permanently closing, many stores are behind on rent, and mall owners face difficult choices. But, some malls are getting creative with how to make ends meet.
Brookfield Properties owns almost 200 mall locations in the United States and has made a deal with Kilburn Live, an entertainment company, to let drive-in movie theaters and concerts be held in its mall lots. This has become a welcome avenue for income for mall owners, as well as an option for folks who are missing the experience of going to the movie theater.
So far, these pop-up theaters have been set up in Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Woodbridge, and New Jersey. Brookfield has plans to allow more locations to open drive-ins and concerts soon.
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Mall parking lots offer an alternative to indoor venues, and with the added space, most social distancing guidelines are easy to follow. Some municipalities have allowed in-person performances, while others have stuck to movies or concerts live-streamed to a big screen.
Walmart has also started to allow their parking lots to be used as drive-in movie theaters, announcing that it plans to turn over 150 store parking lots into drive-in locations from August through October.
For some malls, the coronavirus pandemic is adding to an already struggling business. As online and e-commerce shopping options improve and grow, the retail business has suffered. Many large retail chains that are staples in malls have closed locations or filed for bankruptcy including American Girl, Brooks Brothers, GNC, JCPenney, J.Crew Group, Aldo, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria’s Secret, among several others.
According to reporting by Business Insider, it has been predicted that over 50 percent of mall-based stores may close by the end of 2021.
Food truck gatherings and farmers' markets have also popped up in empty parking lots over the summer. But not all the alternative uses of this empty parking lot space have been for fun or entertainment; some have become temporary doctors’ offices, COVID-29 testing sites, temporary housing for the increasing homeless population, and more.
Have you attended a drive-in movie or another event in one of these mall parking lots? Share your experience with us in the comments.