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Malls R Us

By Rob Christopher in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 3, 2009 4:40PM

Ah, the shopping mall: food courts, chain stores, erstwhile home to zombie uprisings and Tiffany concerts (specifically "The Beautiful You: Celebrating The Good Life Shopping Mall Tour '87"). The first enclosed shopping center, Southdale Mall in Edina, Minnesota (shown above), opened in 1956. Since then they've spread to practically every corner of the globe. In fact the world's largest malls are now in Asia, dwarfing their North American ancestors. Aside from McDonald's perhaps no other American innovation has been so equally reviled and embraced.

Why are malls the coolest thing ever but also the most disastrous thing to happen to shopping? Why do we endlessly scorn the mall and yet can't stop going there? A new documentary playing at Facets through Thursday examines the phenomenon in all its contradictory glory. Malls R Us mixes archival footage with newly shot architecture porn from such far-flung mall locales as Japan, Poland and Dubai. It chronicles their rise as well as their demise, tracked by the hypnotic website Dead Malls.

So what's the future of the mall? Logan's Run? Or will high gas prices and internet shopping finally kill it off? Don't bet on it. And, for that matter, we'd better hope not. Because let's face it, our most popular tourist attraction ain't nothin' but a mall.