The Metreon opened to much fanfare in June, 1999. Sony invested over $85 million dollars to create what it called a technology entertainment complex. In fact, when it opened Sony officials were really upset if you called it a “mall.” Never mind that it was simply a mall that sold no clothes. Dig a little deeper and you find that the Metreon was a place for Sony to showcase its products, artists and technology in its SonyStyle and Playstation stores, the sound system in Jillian’s, and the 15 movie theatres, which were all developed with Sony technology and equipment.
In short, you could buy high-tech equipment from Sony or Microsoft, who also had a store there, and entertain yourself at the movie theatre, Jillian’s, or the huge state of the art arcade. Oh, and there was a kids entertainment section too on the top floor. A year after The Metreon opened, over 6 million people had visited the new entertainment complex and Sony’s experiment was deemed a huge success. I had my 30th birthday party at the Metreon in 2002 and really enjoyed Jillian’s and the arcade with a lot of friends. It was great!
Then, as with all things that are centered around technology, it was all downhill from there. All of the state-of-the-art equipment that filled the Metreon started to look commonplace after a while. The Microsoft store closed. The plasma big screens inside Jillian’s started to look dated against the LCDs that most people started to get in their homes. The video games inside the arcade weren’t as cool as the video games that most people had at home with the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. Ultimately the arcade closed, and then reopened, but it was never really popular. The big restaurant other than Jillian’s closed.
Sony couldn’t take it anymore and sold the Metreon to Westfield in 2006. They finally realized that they had no idea of how to run a mall (retail space) in an urban area and called it quits. Westfield immediately opened cart kiosks selling everything from mobile phone accessories to Rosetta Stone software. The Metreon started to look like a cheap mall. Then an Oakland teenager was shot at the Metreon in little over a year ago. Westfield increased security at the Metreon after the incident but the damage was done.
The Long Life Noodle Company food court restaurant closed a couple of months ago. Westfield boarded up the restaurant and put a sign on it saying that something new will open in its place in 2010. It looks that there are no new takers for 2009. Sony is now the biggest, and only original remaining tenant at the Metreon. But Sony recently announced that they would not be renewing their leases for their SonyStyle and Playstation stores this summer. When those two stores close, it will be the official end of the Metreon as it was intended to be. It will officially be dead and its metamorphosis to be just-another-mall (with a movie theater) will finally be complete.
The Metreon’s death may not be a bad thing, but it sure was a long time coming. With its location, there is no reason that the Metreon shouldn’t be one of the most successful retail spaces in the city. Tavern on the Green announced last year that they are going to take the entire top floor of the Metreon. Hopefully they will still be able to follow through with their plans given the rough economy. Here’s hoping that Metreon’s rebirth is just around the corner.