Within the ongoing evolution of the post-pandemic retail panorama, a former west suburban Sears retailer is being reworked into an indoor leisure theme park, giving guests the prospect to zap ectoplasmic entities from “Ghostbusters” the place they as soon as shopped for Toughskin denims.
Sony Photos Leisure is launching its first Wonderverse at Oakbrook Middle subsequent month, an elaborate 45,000-square-foot house stocked with immersive experiences primarily based on hits like “Zombieland” and “Jumanji” from the studio’s film, TV and online game franchises.
“This is a chance to form of step into the display screen and go previous it, if you’ll,” mentioned Jeffrey Godsick, head of location-based leisure at Sony Photos. “And in some circumstances, be a Ghostbuster.”
Wonderverse will embody each everlasting and pop-up themed sights, from digital actuality quests and escape rooms to old skool arcade video games. It would additionally function a full-service restaurant and bar, in addition to a “Ghostbusters”-themed speak-easy to ostensibly drink spirits with spirits.
The Ghostbusters providing features a mission to seize ghosts whereas armed with realistic-looking proton packs — cross the streams at your individual threat. There may be additionally a simulated Ectomobile hovercraft journey.
Zombieland sights embody a Pacific Playland arcade and bumper automobiles, the place contact turns every participant into an undead driver. Jumanji will likely be a digital actuality expertise to search out and exchange the Jaguar’s jeweled eye, the main focus of the rebooted 2017 film.
A retail retailer will function merchandise geared towards devotees, full of such inside references as a T-shirt for “Ray’s Occult Books,” a store run by Dan Aykroyd’s character in 1989′s “Ghostbusters II” sequel. The merchandise will solely be obtainable at Wonderverse, Godsick mentioned.
“Nearly each single factor that’s within the retailer you can not purchase wherever else on this planet,” Godsick mentioned. “These are unique designs made particularly for the shop.”
Wonderverse is slated for a smooth opening in December and a grand opening in January. Admission will likely be free, however the sights are designed as pay-for-play, with costs starting from $10 to $35 per individual, Godsick mentioned. Sony is projecting upward of 5,000 each day guests, however particular person sights ought to be booked upfront, with a restricted variety of members at a time.
The leisure middle will likely be an adult-only expertise after 8 p.m. every night time.
Sony, which hopes to roll out the Wonderverse idea internationally, signed a 10-year lease with Brookfield Properties, the homeowners of Oakbrook Middle. The house encompasses 80,000 sq. toes, with Sony planning to sublease the adjoining 35,000 sq. toes to different tenants, Godsick mentioned.
The house was as soon as a part of a large Sears anchor retailer spanning three tales and 250,000 sq. toes. It was subdivided in 2018, giving rise to Life Time Health, L.L. Bean and Ballard Designs, amongst different tenants. Sears closed its downsized retailer on the decrease stage after rising from chapter in 2019.
The remaining 80,000-square-foot house on the higher stage was leased in 2018 to KidZania, a kids’s leisure middle, however it by no means opened and the Mexico-based firm halted the Oak Brook undertaking in 2021.
“Sadly, they had been a casualty of the pandemic,” mentioned Tim Geiges, senior basic supervisor of Oakbrook Middle.
Into the void stepped Sony, which has been within the planning phases for Wonderverse at Oakbrook Middle for a number of years, Geiges mentioned. It would quickly be part of an more and more various roster of tenants on the sprawling west suburban out of doors mall.
In-built 1962, Oakbrook Middle is the second largest Chicago-area buying middle with greater than 2.5 million sq. toes of leasable house. Anchor tenants embody Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, with dozens of shops, eating places and a rising portfolio of experiential choices.
Along with the forthcoming Wonderverse, experiential tenants embody Puttshack, Escape the Room, Immersive Gamebox and Sandbox VR, all of which opened in the previous few years.
“We’ve form of been evolving over the previous 10-plus years,” Geiges mentioned. “This actually isn’t something new for us.”
Again within the day, experiential at a shopping mall might need meant a film, a bowling alley, a restaurant or maybe a warmup-suited mall walker. However the choices have developed lately as retail navigates the expansion of on-line buying, which was catalyzed by the pandemic.
North Michigan Avenue, lengthy the nexus of buying in Chicago, noticed an exodus of shops in the course of the pandemic, shedding Macy’s, Hole and Japanese clothes large Uniqlo, amongst others. Emptiness alongside the Magnificent Mile nonetheless sits at about 25%.
New tenants embody the Museum of Ice Cream, which opened two years in the past within the redeveloped Tribune Tower.
Throughout the U.S., buying middle occupancy, which dropped to 90.2% in 2021, has practically recovered to pre-pandemic ranges at 92.1%, in keeping with third quarter information from ICSC, an trade commerce group.
A rising variety of these vacancies are being stuffed by experiential tenants, which account for roughly 15% of all retail leasing exercise up to now yr, in keeping with a November report by JLL.
“We’re within the midst of an explosion within the experiential economic system,” Godsick mentioned. “Folks at the moment, particularly millennials and Gen Z, are rather more excited by spending their cash on experiences than buying simply materials items.”
Brookfield Properties, a part of Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Administration, took over Oakbrook Middle and a handful of different space buying facilities with its $15 billion acquisition of GGP in 2018. It has been, for higher or worse, a change agent in Chicago retail.
At Northbrook Court docket, Brookfield demolished a vacant Macy’s anchor retailer in 2019, and is trying to redevelop the practically 50-year-old north suburban mall as a mixed-use residential and retail middle.
In April 2022, Brookfield walked away from Water Tower Place, handing the onetime jewel of Michigan Avenue again to the lender after shedding Macy’s and different tenants in the course of the pandemic.
Oakbrook Middle stays a “thriving, evolving mall” with a ready listing of potential tenants, in keeping with Lindsay Kahn, a spokesperson for Brookfield Properties.
Geiges is assured Wonderverse will likely be a regional draw for Oakbrook Middle.
“I believe Sony’s Wonderverse will convey individuals in from throughout as a result of it’s going to be such a novel, thrilling idea,” Geiges mentioned.
Sony, for its half, is banking on that success.
Goldsick mentioned the idea is being vetted for areas world wide, primarily based on how the preliminary Wonderverse at Oakbrook Middle performs.
“Our purpose is to open this one first, study every part we presumably can,” Goldsick mentioned. “After which we’ll begin to roll out Wonderverse as a product each in america and internationally.”
Already listed on the Oakbrook Middle web site as coming quickly, Wonderverse is racing the clock to open by the vacations.
Throughout a latest go to, employees in exhausting hats and yellow vests had been busy constructing out the cavernous house, the place development scissor lifts had been essentially the most plentiful rides weeks earlier than its deliberate opening. Lots of the sights are being assembled off-site.
The Ghostbusters digital actuality expertise was among the many first to be put in place, with the Ectomobile journey sitting underneath wraps and an array of proton packs hanging on a close-by wall.
The Pacific Playland arcade, web site of the ultimate scene from “Zombieland,” was additionally absolutely put in and beckoning with the flashing lights of coin-swallowing video games, from large video classics like Pac-Man and Area Invaders to personalised claw machines and Skee-Ball. Off in their very own enviornment, pristine bumper automobiles sat neatly in a row as they waited for the fender benders and chaos to come back.
Some ideas are nonetheless being labored out, nonetheless. Whereas cooks on the in-house restaurant have already provide you with a toasted Marshmallow Man as an homage to “Ghostbusters,” a plan to create a Twinkie-like deal with in honor of “Zombieland” remains to be in culinary analysis and improvement, Godsick mentioned.
“We’re engaged on one thing that’s form of a large sponge cake dessert,” Godsick mentioned. “We haven’t cracked that one but.”