What’s more leisurely than going out to the mall, watching your favorite movie, and then sauntering on over to the food court or local restaurant afterwards? These forms of leisure and entertainment have changed rapidly over the last three to four months. And that world may never be the same. We discovered just how deep and long lasting the effects of shutting down an entire economy were on malls, movie theaters, and restaurants.

Shopping malls have been under stress for the past decade, and the pandemic only accelerated the pressures they’ve been feeling from online sales. Even though digital revenue only accounts for 11% of total retail sales, the picture is much clearer when you look at a mall retailer as a case study. Gap, for example, saw their gross revenues drop by 43% in the first quarter of 2020, yet their internet sales increased by 13%. Translation: Less people buying in stores and more people buying online. In the long run, this transition may lead to better margins for retailers, but it will come at the expense of shopping centers and local retail ecosystems.

Much like malls, movie theaters have been under pressure over the last decade – in this case the culprit is streaming services. According to Statista, movie ticket sales in North America peaked in 2002 with 1.575 billion tickets sold. Admissions declined to 1.225 billion tickets by 2019 – levels that hadn’t been seen since the mid 1990s. Unlike malls though, which have nearly all reopened, most states have precluded movie theaters from reopening and chains are reluctant to let audiences back into theaters. AMC, the nation’s largest chain of movie theaters, announced they were pushing back their first round of reopenings to July 30. Reopening isn’t their only challenge – when movie producers began releasing films on Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus while theaters were closed, they may have given consumers one less reason to go to the theater.

Restaurants around the world are struggling to stay afloat. In India, stronger preference for take-out over dine-in has cut into profits. Take-out only contributes 10-12%, while dine-in represents over half of restaurants’ topline. Eateries inside malls are delaying openings and waiting for a sizable number of customers before opening, due to higher operating costs in malls. Domestically, the picture is the same. And in Michigan, the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA) has projected that a third of restaurants in the state are at risk of shutting their doors. Restaurants around the country are in serious trouble, what can be done to help them survive?


The global movie theater industry is in big trouble. COVID-19 has utterly destroyed the industry in just a few months despite record box office revenue in 2018. Some of the largest movie theater chains in the world are on the brink of bankruptcy, due to months of little or no global attendance. AMC, one of the largest movie chains in the world, recently disclosed a net loss of over $2 billion in the first quarter of 2020. The movie industry, as a whole, has experienced its share of damage during this time as well. But production companies have been relatively insulated, due to new digital home release schemes. Physical theaters have faced wildly different restrictions and countless reopening delays. Now, as America begins to reopen, theaters are hoping that movie attendance will steadily increase back to pre-virus levels. While experts believe that full normalcy won’t return for at least a year, movie theaters are hopeful that big upcoming releases, such as Christopher Nolan’s “Tenant,” will be able to reignite the lost excitement and movie going.

TRANSCRIPT: Spencer Weaver

When was the last time you’re at the mall? If it’s like me, it’s been a couple of months. And the crisis has not only brought to light some new problems, it’s also exacerbated the class warfare that’s been going on for about the past 15 years. When people talk about shopping centers, they often refer to them as Class A, B, or C centers. Class A malls are the malls that have stores like Apple and Tiffany, and they generate the highest sales per square foot and the most traffic. Class B and C malls are the less busy malls that you find in suburban areas in the middle of the country. Going into the crisis, Class A malls had actually been doing pretty well. A lot of the locations in spots like New York, Los Angeles and Miami, were seeing record interest from foreign travelers and amazing sales growth, especially brands that really recognize the value of having that location. Class B and C malls have been suffering for some time. When you’ve got stores like Gap and Pennies that are easily replaced with online retailers like Amazon, there’s really not the reason to go into the mall. And the Coronavirus has only made that problem worse. You know, when you look at a store like Gap in the first quarter of this year, they saw their online sales more than double. But they also saw their overall sales declined by 40%. Where is their money going? Into the online platform. The same day they announced their earnings, it also came to light that Simon Properties, one of the largest mall owners in the US, had filed suit because they failed to pay over $60 million in rent payments. There’s also the question going forward of what this means for communities. Collectively, shopping malls pay about $400 billion per year in property taxes. Everybody’s got an interest in seeing what happens to the mall in the future. Now, some people are speculating that maybe stores like Pennies could get replaced with fitness centers and Whole Foods stores, places that you’d go most every day so that the mall can turn back into a regular stop in your daily routine. Other people have even speculated that companies like Amazon, looked at buying Pennies or looked at buying other major retailers in order to have a distribution hub for a business that’s done mostly online, but has a new form of pickup. In either case, there’s going to be some serious changes to the mall and next time you go there, and it’s not just going to be the mask you wear or have to wear, it’s probably going to be a few of those famous signs saying “coming soon” and “construction.”

TRANSCRIPT: Dylan Thomas

Restaurants, both in malls and on the street, are witnessing a hodgepodge of higgledy-piggledy reopening timeframes. In Michigan, we’re currently in the 4th phase of a six-stage reopening plan. Restaurants earlier this month were allowed to offer dine-in options earlier this month, as long they were under 50% capacity, waiters were wearing masks and people were spread six feet apart. These restrictions, according to the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association (MRLA), may force about a third of restaurants (in Michigan) to close, with roughly $1.5 billion lost in sales lost already. Many restaurants have opened or expanded their outdoor seating, but with many hours or days of operations reduced, that may not be enough. The National Restaurant Association actually recommends the federal government set up a $240 billion recovery program to help save a lot of restaurants and bars. Currently, the state of Michigan is considering a bill called Cocktails To Go, which would allow restaurants to sell unopened beer and wine, and allow local governments to designate certain areas for public drinking.