There’s a reason why the Starcourt Mall, the principal location for the third season of Stranger Things looks so real: it’s built inside of a real shopping mall. Specifically, it was built inside of Georgia’s Gwinnett Place Mall, which was built just a year before the latest season of Netflix’s show is set.
Although the set is closed to the public and is currently in the process of being dismantled, eager fans have managed to sneak in to take photos and video of the interior, and the attention to detail is stunning.
Netflix constructed around 40 stores in the mall for the show, which included period-appropriate versions of existing stores like Burger King and Hot Dog on a Stick (complete with their genuine ‘80s uniforms), as well as original creations like Scoops Ahoy, which apparently featured a boat-shaped restaurant booth that you can only partially see in the show.
Along with other historically believable shops that the show’s characters visit throughout the course of the show, there are almost a half-dozen extra stores that were built and filled with period-appropriate signage and products, but they never appeared on camera. Typically, film sets aren’t a full structure or room; it’s cheaper to build the bare minimum needed for a shot. That Netflix opted to build out entire stores suggests that the filmmakers wanted a bit of flexibility with how they shot the show, allowing them to shoot from any angle without worrying about an unfinished background.
For me, I'm most interested in a store that I never noticed on-screen at all: a reconstruction of a mom-and-pop 1980s computer and videogame store called "The Game Player," located right next to the movie theater. (Photos by @nekoarc.) pic.twitter.com/yKryQ6sAOL— Andy Baio (@waxpancake) July 11, 2019
One such unused store is a WixandStix. In the first episode of Netflix’s Behind the Scenes podcast, set decorator Jess Royal details the amazing lengths she went to in order to build a set that didn’t make the cut. In fact, the candle shop came out looking so period-appropriate that there was apparently even talk of writing it into the show, although these plans never materialized. Apparently, transforming the mall itself was helped by a scrapbook the production team found while scouting the location, which contained images of what the mall looked like in the ‘80s.
Local Atlanta newspaper AJC reports that the set is currently in the process of being dismantled after Netflix reportedly decided against leaving it in place as a permanent tourist attraction. Unfortunately, it sounds like the mall could really use the customization. Most of the mall’s units are apparently now empty, with only a handful of shops remaining.
With the retro mall now probably disappearing forever, we can at least take a video tour that one fan was able to film and posted to YouTube last year, complete with period storefronts and products in the windows.