How Virtual Reality Attractions are Making the Malls Great Again

Why travel to the mall and endure traffic when you can shop and watch films in the comfort of your own home, right? Convenience is keeping people from going out. The success of Amazon, Netflix, and similar apps is resulting in rising vacancy rate in malls. To save physical retail stores and movie theatres, mall operators are trying out virtual reality attractions. VR theatres, arcades, parks, and game kiosks are starting to pop-up in empty spaces in malls around the world. These are offering one-of-a-kind and exciting VR experiences to early adopters of the technology.


According to Michael J. Brown, a partner and retail specialist at A.T. Kearney consulting firm, malls are in need of tenants that can draw people back in malls. Operators must focus on consumer engagement too, aside from selling things.


Here are several examples of virtual reality attractions that revive malls:

Terminator VR Game in Irvine Spectrum Center

This suburban mall located in South Carolina recently made room for the popular virtual reality attraction, Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future. The mall offered a location based-VR company to operate their Terminator film-inspired game in a stall previously rented by a restaurant. They opened it in late August and is attracting mall goers ever since.


VR games like Terminator Salvation is a magnet for teenagers and young adults who want to experience this trending game. Most of them haven’t been to the mall in months. Others try it to pass the time and avoid the rush hour on the way home.

How Virtual Reality Attractions are Making the Malls Great Again
Teens playing the location-based virtual reality start-up called "Terminator Salvation: Fight for the Future" at the Irvine Spectrum Center. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

The Irvine Spectrum Centre is the only suburban mall who acquired virtual reality attractions this year. Other malls walked down the similar path too:

  1. The Outlets at Orange shopping centre in Orange County, California franchised Alien: Descent, a VR experience based on the sci-fi movie Alien.  It was created by Pure Imagination, which licensed the rights from 20th Century Fox.
  1. The Westfield Century City in Los Angeles hosted Alien Zoo, a VR pop-up attraction.  
  1. Glendale Galleria in downtown California became home to Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, a virtual reality attraction where visitors wear backpacks and VR goggles as they course through their mission.
  1. Dubai Mall in UAE opened a 75,000 square foot VR & AR entertainment center that offers the finest VR & AR and location-based immersive experiences in the world today.


VR entertainment centres like the ones mentioned above give people a reason to visit the mall. Once they’re inside, they’ll see that nothing compares to it. The mall is still the number one place to shop, to be entertained, and to hang out with family and friends.

How Virtual Reality Attractions are Making the Malls Great Again
People with an immersive VR content viewing experience at Samsung Gear VR Theater with 4D Chair in modern Interactive space Galaxy S8 Studio in Megapolis Shopping Mall. Editorial credit: Anton Gvozdikov /

Immersive three-screen cinema

The traditional movie business has strong competitors, but they’re not giving up. There are companies that still challenge in-home movies. Barco Escape, for one, offers a three-screen system which makes movies immersive. The attendance is 62% higher here as compared to traditional movie screens.


To beat over the top media content, malls and movie houses must give an experience that people don’t have at home.

How Virtual Reality Attractions are Making the Malls Great Again
Barco's multi-screen, panoramic movie format offers the ultimate immersive cinema experience.

Donald Fox, a theatre operator agrees with this. But, he’s yet to upgrade the screens of his theatres in Pennsylvania and Maryland.


Instead, he replaced the stuffy cinema seats with a more comfortable recliner. He also added a kitchen and bar inside the theatre. Moviegoers can enjoy their made-to-order food and drinks while watching the film. As a result, people felt relaxed and enjoyed the film more.  


Upgrading the seats and offering more convenient amenities can entice people to watch more movies on the big screen.

Why these changes should concern businesses

Virtual reality attractions and improved cinemas are proof that the business models that will work today and in the future are experiential. If huge establishments like malls need to evolve to survive, so does your business. Companies who give their consumers attractive offers will survive.


You can hook your individual customers or groups of consumers using an immersive brand experience. Do more than just classic PR stunts, display ads, and promoted social media ads. Give them interactive, 3D VR content that they’ll enjoy.