SAN FRANCISCO -- A new attraction was born in San Francisco -- Metreon, the Sony Entertainment Center.

Within hours of its opening this month, Metreon was packed with thousands of tourists and local residents, all eager to experience what promoters said is a San Francisco attraction that will rival the city's famous cable cars, bridges and ethnic neighborhoods as a landmark.

Metreon is a futuristic complex of burnished metal and glass that sits atop the Moscone Convention Center in the booming South of Market area.

Inside the complex are 15 movie theaters, a Sony IMAX Theater, eight restaurants, shopping and interactive, Disneyland-style attractions geared to families.

Starwood's new W Hotel, the first W to be built from the ground up, is a block away; the San Francisco Marriott is across the street, and Union Square is three blocks north.

A Metreon spokesman said officials expect the center will attract 5 million visitors per year, and half of those will be tourists. "We're right on top of the convention center and a few minutes' walk from all the major hotels," he said.

Metreon is the kind of place in which visitors can spend a few hours or an entire day, depending on their interests, the spokesman said.

There are three attractions aimed at families.

  • Where the Wild Things Are, an interactive Disneyland-style ride, is named for a children's book by Maurice Sendak. Visitors take a journey with the hero of Sendak's book, Max, who travels from his bedroom into a boat that carries them to the Land of the Wild Things.
  • The Way Things Work, where participants encounter a comical robot host and watch a three-screen, 3-D video presentation created by David Macaulay, who wrote the book "The Way Things Work."
  • The Airtight Garage involves video games using Sony technology and the art of French graphic novelist Jean "Moebius" Giraud. Included is Badlands, in which players enter carlike pods and travel to an asteroid.
  • Most of Metreon, however, is made up of shops, movie theaters and restaurants reflecting the ethnic diversity of San Francisco. The shops -- some of which are unique to the center -- were the biggest draws on opening day.

    One is a huge Discovery Channel Store with hundreds of educational and cultural exhibits and products. Another is Microsoft's first store, where shoppers can test the latest Microsoft applications.

    The most popular of the shops has been Sony's first PlayStation flagship store, which features 30 stations for shoppers to sample the games before they buy.

    There are also stores related to the attractions: a The Way Things Work shop, a Moebius shop and a Wild Things store. There is no admission charge to Metreon. Each of the three family attractions and movie theaters has its own admission fee.

    Metreon officials are working with the local hotel industry to develop packages that include visits to Metreon attractions. They also are working with convention and meeting planners who are interested in using Metreon facilities for events, the spokesman said.

    For more information, call Metreon at (415) 537-3400 or visit the Web site at www.metreon.com.

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