Step back in time to the glory days of the Sherman Oaks Galleria, the setting for a plethora of eighties movie classics. Remember the arcade where Charles Jefferson tried to score Earth, Wind and Fire tickets from Mike Damone? Or the pizza joint where Stacy and Linda worked? What about the Vals hanging out in the food court, and Tommy getting dissed by Julie on the escalator? Or maybe Matrix chasing Tully and swinging onto an elevator, while Rae Dawn Chong was freaking out? Maybe you got trapped there after hours and were chased by robotic security guards gone haywire and homicidal? Perhaps Moon Unit Zappa name checking it in her hit single, Valley Girl, rings a bell?
Yep, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Valley Girl (the movie, and unrelated song), Commando and Terminator 2 (Arnold was a virtual regular there apparently), Night of The Comet and Chopping Mall are but a few of the era defining classics (well, some more defining than others) that benefited from the Sherman Oaks setting. Fast Times and Valley Girl are two of my favorite teen oriented movies from that period, and that mall undoubtedly played a huge part in the High School youth culture of the San Fernando Valley area that those movies expose. That’s where you met your friends, got your first job, talked music at the Record Bar, played video games and bought your Sergio Valente stretch jeans. It was probably the moment in time in which the mall played the biggest part in the teen lifestyle, and the Sherman Oaks Galleria epitomized that scene, no matter where you grew up.
So in what movie is the mall most significant? Well, Fast Times wins on an aesthetic/storyline angle, but as far as THE WHOLE FREAKING MOVIE TAKES PLACE IN THE MALL, Chopping Mall takes top honors. Also, known as Killbots, Chopping Mall, disappeared from theaters quickly, but has since developed a reputation as a campy horror classic, with the Sherman Oaks epochal look giving it that period specific edge that eighties fans can’t seem to get enough of. The location becomes a central character.
The Sherman Oaks Galleria has gone through a number of changes since it’s heyday. The mid-nineties saw stores disappearing, and by the end of the century, the mall closed for several years worth of renovations, at which point it became an open air mall, clearly changing the entire experience, with the movie theater at which Fast Times’ Mark Ratner worked, remaining the only link to it’s storied history.