Special Section - Latin America Region - November 2018


Parque da Mônica’s characters mean a lot to Brazilian guests of all ages. (Credit: Parque da Mônica)

Setting up Shop at the Mall

Shopping malls in Latin America add small amusement parks to entice customers

by Juanita Chavarro Arias

Across Latin America, families are visiting malls to do more than shop for the latest fashions, find home goods, or dine in the food court; they are making a day of having fun at family entertainment centers (FECs) and small amusement parks housed at the shopping centers. Positioned alongside department stores, supermarkets, restaurants, and movie theaters, FECs and amusement parks offer mallgoers a range of attractions—including arcade games, roller coasters, flume rides, Ferris wheels, climbing walls, and musical stage shows—transforming shopping malls into all-encompassing entertainment destinations.

“The retail, dining, and entertainment concept is already present in Europe, Asia, and the United States, and in Latin America, it has been strengthening,” says Marcelo Beraldo da Silva, executive director of Parque da Mônica in São Paulo, Brazil. “We believe that the possibility of complementing the day in the park with dinner or even shopping is a great competitive advantage. In addition, shopping malls are increasingly seeking to bring attractions to their complexes so the experience of their customers is complete.”

Celebrating the Legacies of Cherished Characters

Parque da Mônica found its home in 2015 at SP Market, a shopping mall with almost 250 stores that attracts about 1 million visitors monthly. The indoor amusement park opened a rejuvenated 12,000-square-meter facility at SP Market five years after closing its original 17-year location at a different mall in the city. Today’s park offers classic amusement park attractions while incorporating those rooted in technology and interactivity, like its newest attraction “Mission: Deep Sea,” which debuted in January. Most of Parque da Mônica’s visitors come from the São Paulo area, but approximately 20 percent of guests visit from outside the city and other states.

While the park’s primary demographic is families with children between 3 and 12 years, guests of all ages are drawn to Parque da Mônica’s well-known characters created by Brazilian cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa.

“It is impressive to see the affection and popularity of the Mônica and friends characters among the Brazilian population,” Beraldo da Silva notes. “The children are very happy, and often parents also end up getting emotional to be able to hug a character that was part of their childhood.”

To maintain a safe and profitable operation, the Parque da Mônica team keeps in touch with the latest trends and developments at parks around the world and actively participates in IAAPA committees, courses, and events.

“Being located inside a mall has many advantages; one of them is being part of a complex that combines security, convenience, several services, and the possibility of same-day shopping,” says Beraldo da Silva. “Our main goal is to provide a space where parents can have fun with their children while surrounded by positive examples of friendship, diversity, citizenship, and respect for nature and others.”

Building on Five Decades of Experience

Seeing a demand for more family-friendly attractions at Brazilian malls, Marcelo Gutglas, CEO of Playcenter, and his team worked to establish a new concept called Playcenter Family. 

“In the last 50 years, we had the opportunity to develop and operate several attractions in Brazil. Among them were the Playcenter amusement park, the Playlands FECs in shopping malls, and the Playbowlings, which were the first automatic bowling lanes in Brazil,” Gutglas says. “The idea behind the Playcenter Family was to create a new experience of children’s entertainment that offered interactive services and attractions.”

Playcenter chose São Paulo’s Aricanduva Mall as the site for Playcenter Family to benefit from its status as one of the largest shopping centers in Latin America, bringing in 4.5 million visitors per month to more than 500 stores across 250,000 square meters of retail space. Gutglas says Playcenter has had a long-standing relationship with Aricanduva Mall, as it previously housed a successful Playland FEC operation.

“The mall’s entrepreneurs made big efforts to implement the new park,” he says. “In addition to building the shell with the characteristics necessary for the development of the project, they provided resources and gave all the support to make the Playcenter Family a reality.”

The 5,000-square-meter indoor amusement park opened on Jan. 4, 2018, featuring a dragon roller coaster, a drop tower, a carousel, bumper cars, arcade games, climbing walls, a 110-seat theater, and four party rooms.

“Today, malls are being forced to reinvent themselves due to strong competition with online sales,” Gutglas says. “One solution was to add services and experiences, such as gastronomy and leisure. In this sense, parks like Playcenter Family, which are strong generators of traffic, have a great synergy with malls.”


Imagic places mallgoers in fantasy worlds like wild jungles and pirate-claimed harbors. (Credit: Imagic)

Transporting Mallgoers to Fantasy Worlds

Imagic founders Miguel Angel Fox and Luis Negrete Rodríguez were attracted to shopping malls’ millions of annual visitors, parking and security amenities, and their commitment to deliver world-class guest experiences. Negrete Rodríguez says the trend in Latin America is growing from small entertainment spaces to larger experiences being launched in malls.

“The challenge is to create a concept that is fun, exiting, and able to fit in a space that is 7,000 square meters or smaller. Many attractions available in the industry are designed for really big spaces, so you need to design your own attractions or adapt existing ones.”

Opened in October, Imagic, located in Paseo Interlomas shopping mall in Huixquilucan, Mexico, came about as a conversation between the founders, who “wanted to create a place where families could have fun but also develop their creativity and learn with some of the best attractions in a fantastic environment.” Using the idea as a guide, the pair kicked off the development process by visiting IAAPA Attractions Expo for the first time eight years ago.

The Imagic team has worked with numerous attractions manufacturers and suppliers to build the indoor park’s incredibly detailed fantasy worlds, transporting guests to a vibrantly lit jungle scene with an idling jeep and a seaside harbor across the way complete with wood and stone architecture and a skull and crossbones-adorned pirate ship.

Reaching for the Sky

Unlike most indoor amusement parks based at shopping malls, ¡Kataplum! was built on the roof of Parque Las Antenas shopping center in Iztapalapa, Mexico.

Grupo Diniz, known for its ¡Recórcholis! brand of FECs, worked with the mall’s owner Grupo Danhos to design and build the 27,000-square-meter ¡Kataplum!, ensuring it met all the necessary structural requirements before opening in October.

“¡Kataplum! is located in a highly populated area where residents had few options for fun and entertainment,” says Ana María de la Torre Ruiz Zorrilla, marketing director for Grupo Diniz, ¡Recórcholis! and ¡Kataplum! “The benefit of being in a shopping center is that people can visit ¡Kataplum! on a daily basis, with visits ranging from half an hour to a whole day. We offer affordable ticketing options sold individually or in a package.”

De la Torre Ruiz Zorrilla says the facility’s more than 30 attractions—including high-tech, virtual reality experiences, new ride models, and open-air, live theater shows—create adventure and excitement-filled experiences at the mall.

“We want families to be able to enjoy the park without having to wait for special occasions that only happen a few times in a year,” she says. “With ¡Kataplum!, we hope to make it possible for an amusement park to add more entertainment and happiness to families’ everyday lives.”