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Neon Dreams and Retail Paradises: Los Angeles Malls and Mall Culture in the 1980s

The 1980s marked a transformative period for consumer culture in Los Angeles as malls became vibrant social and commercial hubs, embodying the flashy, vibrant, and aspirational nature of popular culture during that era. Exploring the rise of malls in Los Angeles and their unique culture provides insights into the changing retail landscape and the profound impact of malls on the city's social fabric.

During the 80s, malls in Los Angeles experienced significant growth, with more and more emerging across the city, each with their own architectural flair and offerings. The Glendale Galleria and Sherman Oaks Galleria were among the iconic malls known for their sleek design, upscale stores, and appearances in popular films like "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." These malls became popular gathering places for Angelenos, providing fashion, entertainment, and dining options.

The mall culture during this time extended beyond shopping. Malls served as social spaces where people came to see and be seen, indulging in the latest trends, entertainment, and culinary delights. Fashion shows, live performances, and celebrity appearances were common occurrences, creating an atmosphere of excitement, excess, and consumerism that reflected the spirit of the decade.

Further, malls in the 80s were not just about shopping; they were immersive entertainment experiences. Arcade games like Aladdin's Castle and Time-Out provided hours of entertainment for people of all ages, fostering a sense of competition and camaraderie. Cinemas within malls screened the latest blockbuster films, while food courts offered diverse culinary choices and spaces for socializing.

The 1980s redefined the concept of malls and mall culture in Los Angeles. Their influence continues to shape the way we shop, socialize, and experience consumer culture in the 21st century.


Pic 1: The Westside Pavilion - 1986. Photo from the Claremont Archives.

Pic 2: South Bay Galleria - no date but sometime after 1985 as that's when the mall opened. Photo from Tumblr.

Pic 3: The Century City Mall during the '84 Olympics. Photo from the UCLA Archives.

Pic 4: The Sherman Oaks Galleria - 1981. Photo by Wayne Thom.

Pic 5: Mayor Bradley opening the Crenshaw Mall - 1988. Photo from the UCLA Archives.

Pic 6: Pasadena Plaza - 1981. Photo by Wayne Thom.

Pic 7: The Beverly Center - 1982. Photo from the Claremont Archives.

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