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Home » Inside America’s Dead Shopping Malls: Dan Bell (Full Transcript)

Inside America’s Dead Shopping Malls: Dan Bell (Full Transcript)


In the last couple of years, I have produced what I call “The Dead Mall Series,” 32 short films and counting about dead malls. Now, for those of you who are not familiar with what a dead mall is, it’s basically a shopping mall that has fallen into hard times. So it either has few shops and fewer shoppers, or it’s abandoned and crumbling into ruin. No sale at Penny’s.

I started producing this series in early 2015 after going through kind of a dark period in my life where I just didn’t want to create films anymore. I put my camera away and I just stopped. So in 2015, I decided to make a short film about the Owings Mills Mall. Owings Mills Mall opened in 1986. I should know because I was there on opening day. I was there with my family, along with every other family in Baltimore, and you had to drive around for 45 minutes just to find a parking spot. So if you can imagine, that’s not happening at the malls today.

My first mall job that I had as a teenager was at a sporting goods store called Herman’s World of Sports. Maybe you remember.

(Singing) Herman’s World of Sports. You guys remember that? Yeah, so I worked in a lady’s shoe store. I worked in a leather goods store, and I also worked in a video store, and not being one who was very fond of the retail arts — I got fired from every single job.

In between these low-paying retail jobs, I did what any normal teenager did in the 1990s. I shoplifted. I’m just kidding. I hung out with my friends at the mall. Everyone’s like, “Oh my God, what kind of talk is this?” Hanging out at the mall could be fun, but it could be really lame, too, like sharing a cigarette with a 40-year-old unemployed mall rat who has put on black lipstick for the night while you’re on your break from your crappy minimum wage job.

As I stand here today, Owings Mills has been gutted and it’s ready for the wrecking ball. The last time I was there, it was in the evening, and it was about three days before they closed the mall for good. And you kind of felt — they never announced the mall was closing, but you had this sort of feeling, this ominous feeling, that something big was going to happen, like it was the end of the road. It was a very creepy walk through the mall. Let me show you.

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