The Department of Wonder, an immersive entertainment experience created by Academy and Emmy Award-winning storytellers, permanently closed the venue at Sugar Land Town Square on Dec. 30—after just fourteen months of operation.

What happened?

The 10,000-square-foot venue opened in October 2022. It combined interactive theater with virtual reality, and led guests—both children and adults—through a quest to unravel stories and solve puzzles, mixing physical and digital media.

Matt Ragan, director of retail programming and operations for real estate company Rebees, said that although the venue created a new genre of entertainment and did succeed in bringing a new energy to the square, it ultimately could not retain a consistent customer base.

Rebees took over management, leasing, branding and marketing for Sugar Land Town Square in 2019 and was charged with revitalizing the mixed-use development, according to its website.

"You're building the brand and you're building a customer base from scratch—especially when it comes to something very ambitious like the Department of Wonder," Ragan said. "I think the guys struggled to figure out how to get people to come back."

What's next?

Ragan said the Rebees team is considering three different tenants—one entertainment, one home goods and one food and beverage option with retail on each side—but it's too early to speak to a timeline for who the new tenant will be and when they will occupy the space.

Though unable to economically sustain the business, Ragan said the Department of Wonder did serve to increase traffic in an under-visited area of Sugar Land Town Square. He said they created interest for businesses such as B.B. Italia and William's Smokehouse to open up near the entertainment center.

"Department of Wonder brought a ton of energy and excitement, it brought entertainment and it brought people back down to that side [of Sugar Land Town Square] and livened it back up," Ragan said.