ShowBiz Pizza Place was a restaurant chain which was very popular in the 1980s. Its history is greatly intertwined with that of its main competitor and eventual successor, Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre. Both companies found early success, owing partially to the rise in popularity of arcade games at the time. The basic concept was to offer pizza, a large selection of arcade games, and an animatronic stage show as a complete package of food and entertainment. The largest difference between the two, and easiest way to distinguish the two chains, was the different robotics and the mascots that each concept used. The mascot for ShowBiz was Billy Bob, an overall-clad hillbilly bear.
The business was founded in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1980 by Bob Brock, owner of Brock Hotel Corporation. At the time, Brock was quite successful as one of the largest franchisors in the Holiday Inn hotel system. Eighty percent of ShowBiz Pizza was owned by Brock Hotel Corporation. The other 20 percent was owned by Creative Engineering, Inc., who was responsible for producing the animatronics show ShowBiz used: The Rock-afire Explosion. In 1980, the company moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas. In 1983, ShowBiz Pizza purchased the assets of Pizza Time Theatre after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, changing the name of the company to ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc. in the process. Both restaurants continued operating as separate entities.
The continued financial decline of ShowBiz Pizza Time began to turn around as result of the efforts by Richard M. Frank, who became chairman and CEO in 1986. Based on customer research, Frank instituted a number of changes to appeal to younger children and parents. Specific measures included increased lighting, expanded and improved food, table service, self-serve fountain drinks, increased rides, and distinct toddler areas. After a few more years, ShowBiz Pizza Time became publicly traded, severed ties with Creative Engineering, and ultimately restructured the restaurants under Concept Unification in 1990. This effort consisted of retrofitting all ShowBiz animatronics into Chuck E. Cheese characters and renaming nearly all locations to Chuck E. Cheese's between 1988 and 1992. This would mark the end of the concept known as "ShowBiz Pizza". Although the company is technically still in business, the current management of the "Chuck E. Cheese's" concept is a direct line from the "ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc." era, with little connection to the original "Pizza Time Theatre" ownership. In 1997, ShowBiz Pizza Time changed its name to CEC Entertainment, Inc., and moved its stock from NASDAQ to NYSE.
The vast majority of former ShowBiz Pizza Place locations were converted into Chuck E. Cheese's locations. These locations used the 3-Stage show format. Some locations were also closed at this time, while other former ShowBiz locations converted to independent entities.
There are a few restaurants still using the ShowBiz Pizza Place name and animatronics. All are located outside the United States, and have no connection to the original company. Known locations are in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. One also operated in Salmiya, Kuwait, but was firebombed during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait during August 1988 and was never repaired or reopened. There has been one return of the brand in the United States, which was called ShowBiz Pizza Zone. However, it closed on May 30, 2009. However, the owner Chris Thrash still maintains the building privately, and he occasionally rents it out for birthday parties.
- ^ a b c "Company Info – History". Chuck E. Cheese's. http://www.chuckecheese.com/company-info/history.php. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- ^ a b "ShowBiz Pizza – Chuck E Cheese Saga". Burger Beast. 2009-07-28. http://burgerbeast.com/2009/07/28/showbiz-pizza-chuck-e-cheese-saga/. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- ^ Funding Universe Company History
- ^ Kuwait Invasion: the evidence
- ShowBiz Pizza Fan Website
- Collector information concerning variety and value of ShowBiz Pizza Place game tokens
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