Thursday, June 20, 2024

Could a Netflix House be coming to Montgomery Mall in Bethesda?

Is Montgomery County ready for Netflix IRL? The leading streaming service announced the planned opening of two Netflix House "experiential entertainment venues" at malls in Dallas and King of Prussia, with potential plans for more in cities yet to be identified. Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda seems like a logical choice to join the list. Netflix Houses are described as being "over 100,000-square-feet" in size. Montgomery Mall's vacant former Sears store is 150,000-square-feet, is currently mothballed, and is generating zero revenue for Westfield beyond whatever tax break can be claimed for the vacancy.

Westfield holds an approval from Montgomery County for an urban-style, mixed-use expansion of the mall, including a demolition of the empty Sears building, but has not taken any visible steps to immediately proceed with that development. A Netflix House would be a good short-term use to generate revenue until Westfield is ready to move forward with the expansion.

"Imagine waltzing with your partner to an orchestral cover of a Taylor Swift song on a replica of the Bridgerton set –– and then walking around the corner to compete in the Glass Bridge challenge from Squid Game," Netflix said in its Netflix House announcement Tuesday. "After pretending to fight for your life, you’ve worked up an appetite and want to get a bite. You see a nearby restaurant with food inspired by Netflix shows from around the world; the meal is memorable, but you still want to buy some Stranger Things merch. Luckily, there’s a shop that sells that Hellfire Club T-shirt you’ve always wanted." 

There are other malls in the region, but Montgomery Mall has the ideal vacant building space that Netflix requires for a Netflix House immediately available. Its loss of Sears as an anchor would be its gain in this case. A Netflix House would generate significant additional foot traffic for other tenants of the mall.

On the other hand, the timeline for opening of the first two Netflix Houses suggests significant construction is required. The Galleria Dallas and King of Prussia Mall Netflix Houses are expected to open in 2025. By the time a Netflix House would open in 2026 or later, who knows if Netflix will still be the entertainment giant it is today? Two years is an eternity in Hollywood, and Westfield might want to proceed with its redevelopment of the Sears building and adjacent parking lot before, or by, that time.

Rendering courtesy Netflix
Photos by Robert Dyer

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