With nearly 20 vacant stores and a food court that housed only Dunkin’ Donuts, the Steeplegate Mall, in the United States has turned to alternative tenants to fill the once-bustling mall.

A child’s amusement centre and a theatre specialising in magic shows and burlesque dancers are two of the most recent tenants to take up occupancy in the downtown Concord Mall. The alternative tenants are part of a national trend that has seen various old malls begin to reinvent themselves in the midst of a physical retail decline.

“One of the things the public are craving is live experiences, so doing theatre in a mall is a natural transition. I think there are other people at malls all around the United States looking to say, ‘how can we use these spaces in creative ways?’ We have a great big space that is already suited for our needs here,” said Andrew Pinard, founder, Hatbox Theatre.

Other malls have caught on with the Burlington Town Centre in Vermont proposing a $200million renovation to include 200 units of housing and a university space alongside its shops. Moorestown Mall in New Jersey transformed itself when voters overturned the century-old liquor ban allowing for high-profile restaurants to open in the area, alongside a new state-of-the-art movie theatre.

“Shopping centres and the physical retail experience is becoming much more experiential. People want to have experiences when they go out. They want to experience restaurants. They want movie theatres. They want that kind of all-in aspect,” said Tom McGee, president, International Council of Shopping Centres.