||Puente Hills Mall · Colima Road
Southwest Entrance · City of Industry, CA
Ah, the mall. The hunting ground of the Southern Californian. It isn't surprising that the inciting incident of this film should take place here. Of course, it's also the only place in the Los Angeles area where you'll find a stretch of open ground large enough to bring a vehicle up to 88 MPH.
Not a lot has changed on the outside of the mall, so it's still easily recognized. Even the parking-lot lights stand in the same places, making them easy reference points if you want to park your car in the same spot Doc parked his van. (FYI, that's my white Altima sitting there.)
But, if you decide to chase this site down and photograph it, don't expect to get it from the same angle pictured above. There's a T.G.I. Friday's standing on that corner now and it took some sweet talking with the manager to get roof access for that shot. Sometimes a camera, a business card and some patter about a Web site can get you into some interesting places.
Anyway, it amazes me how many people I've found who have never noticed this, but look at the mall's sign at the beginning of the film and again at the end. At first it reads, "Twin Pines Mall." As Doc explains during this scene, Old Man Peabody owned the land on which the mall now stands and had the crazy idea of breeding pine trees. In the next scene, as Marty races off of Peabody's land to avoid oncoming buckshot, he inadvertently runs over one of two prized pine trees. With that in mind, take another look at that sign when Marty arrives back at the mall near the end of the film.
Now, the inside of the mall, at least for the Back to the Future fan, isn't as exciting as the parking lot. In fact, it probably isn't all that exciting for anyone else. The stores just aren't that great. But, the central hub of the mall is kind of neat. There's a series of open water canals there running through the floor stocked with nervous koi. Not a smart choice, in my opinion, but fun to watch nonetheless.
And if you feel like walking to one end of the mall, you might encounter an interesting light spectacle there. When the mall opted to add a movie theater, they had a transitional area designed to draw visitors and their shopping dollars into the store areas. A sun-tracking "heliostat" was mounted on the roof to reflect light into the interior lobby via periscope. Adjusted every 20 seconds by as a little as 1/300th of a degree, the light is bounced onto laser-cut prisms to produce some splendid rainbows. The resulting display spills onto the floor, the escalators, even a rotating framework sculpture suspended from the ceiling.
Obviously, the best time to visit this kaleidoscopic feast of eye candy would be during a clear day. But, should you make it at night or under an overcast sky, an artificial light show will kick in and amuse you in its place.
Incidentally, since this is the first scene in which Doc mentions the one-point-twenty-one "jigawatts" needed to power the time circuits, I thought I might just cover the pronunciation of said "jigawatts." In my research for this tour, I've seen people spell this unit of electrical measure a number of ways (jiggawatt, jigawatt, jigowatt, etc.) and I've witnessed minor debates over the subject. I'd like to attempt to settle it once and for all: There's no such thing as a jigowatt. Doc is referring to gigawatts. And, no, he is not mispronouncing it.
The prefix giga- is from the Greek gigas, meaning "giant." In English, it's a scientific prefix meaning "billion." And its pronunciation is acceptable beginning with either a G sound or a J sound. Check a nice, thick dictionary if you don't believe me. In fact, many individuals who have worked with computers and electronics for the last several decades will confirm that they used to pronounce gigabyte as "jigabyte." A few still do. (Geek check: When Sam leaps home in Quantum Leap and speaks with Ziggy, Ziggy also pronounces it "jigabyte.")
So, Doc prefers the more antiquated, but still correct, pronunciation of...anyone? That's right gigawatts. But, enough of the orthography and orthoepy (there's a couple of two-dollar words for ya), let's move on...
Next: Twin Pines Ranch