ShowBiz Pizza Place

ShowBiz Pizza Place, often shortened to ShowBiz Pizza or ShowBiz, was an American restaurant pizza chain and family entertainment center founded in 1980 by Robert L. Brock and Creative Engineering. The brand emerged following a separation between Brock and Pizza Time Theatre, owners of the Chuck E. Cheese's franchise. ShowBiz Pizza restaurants entertained guests through a large selection of arcade games, coin-operated rides, and animatronic stage shows as a way to provide a complete package of food and entertainment.

ShowBiz Pizza Place
SuccessorChuck E. Cheese
FoundedMarch 3, 1980 (1980-03-03)
Defunct1992 (1992) (all locations rebranded)
FateMerged into Chuck E. Cheese
ParentShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc

Both companies became competitors and found early success, partly due to the rise in popularity of arcade games during the late 1970s and early 1980s. The type of animatronics used in the ShowBiz Pizza chain distinguished it from its rivals, which offered many of the same services. Following Pizza Time Theatre's bankruptcy filing in 1984, however, ShowBiz merged with the struggling franchise to settle a former court settlement mandate and formed ShowBiz Pizza Time, a combination of the former companies' names. By 1992, all ShowBiz Pizza locations were rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese's.


A child speaking with Billy Bob at ShowBiz Pizza in Fayetteville, Arkansas

Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, responsible for bringing the first widely recognized video game Pong to the mainstream, headed a project in the mid-1970s for Atari to launch the first arcade-oriented, family restaurant featuring computer-programmed animatronics. At a time when arcades were popular in bowling alleys and bars, Bushnell sought to increase arcade exposure to a younger audience. In 1977, Atari opened the first Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre in San Jose, CA. The concept became an immediate success, and after leaving Atari in 1978, Bushnell purchased the Pizza Time restaurant, forming a new company under the title Pizza Time Theatre Inc.[1]

As Bushnell heavily marketed the Pizza Time franchise, hoping to expand into new markets, the concept began attracting high-profile clients such as Robert L. Brock, best known for his extensive portfolio of Holiday Inn hotels. In 1979, Brock signed a multimillion-dollar franchising agreement with the Pizza Time Theatre Inc., and expected to open as many as 280 Chuck E. Cheese's locations across 16 states in the United States. Shortly thereafter, Brock became concerned about protecting his investment, noticing companies such as Creative Engineering, Inc. (CEI) on the horizon designing more advanced animatronics. He grew concerned that future competitors would emerge with better technology. Bushnell previously reassured Brock at the signing of the franchising agreement that the company's technology would continue to evolve. However, prior to the grand opening of his first location, Brock decided he wanted to void the agreement with Pizza Time, and instead, form a partnership with CEI.[1]

The first ShowBiz Pizza Place opened in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 3, 1980. At the time, Brock was quite successful, as one of the largest franchisers in the Holiday Inn hotel system. The Brock Hotel Corporation owned 80 percent of ShowBiz Pizza Place, while the other 20 percent was owned by CEI, the company responsible for the production of the chain's animatronics show, The Rock-afire Explosion.[2] By September 1981, the company had 48 company-owned outlets and 42 franchises.[3] The company moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas in 1982.

ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc.Edit

In 1984, Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy,[4] and its assets were purchased by ShowBiz parent company Brock Hotel Corp.[5] The two operations merged, and the newly formed company was named ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc. – a combination of the names of the previous two companies. However, both restaurant chains continued operating as separate entities.

Richard M. Frank joined the company as president and chief operating officer in 1985. In 1986, he was named chairman and chief executive officer of the restaurant division.[6] Based on customer research, Frank instituted a number of changes to appeal to younger children and parents. Specific measures included increased lighting, a redesigned food menu, table service, self-serve fountain drinks, a revamped ride selection, and distinct toddler areas. However, relations between ShowBiz and Creative Engineering began to deteriorate. Aaron Fechter, founder of CEI and creator of The Rock-afire Explosion, would later claim in 2008 that the fallout was due to a demand by Showbiz to own CEI's licensing and copyrights to the animatronics show. Fechter says he refused, since Showbiz didn't offer monetary compensation for the rights. Despite the refusal, CEI's creative control was jeopardized, as ShowBiz had the ability to program the characters and replicate their voices, allowing them to make changes to the skits. ShowBiz later returned the recording rights to Fechter following CEI's Liberty Show production (in commemoration of the Statue of Liberty's centennial in 1986), but they did not return the programming rights.

A child on a ride at ShowBiz Pizza in Fayetteville, Arkansas

In 1990, ShowBiz Pizza Time became a public company with its stock market launch. The following year, it severed all ties with CEI and began restructuring the restaurant chains under "Concept Unification".[2] The change consisted of removing the Rock-afire Explosion animatronic show from their restaurants, and converting it into a new show called "Chuck E. Cheese & Munch's Make Believe Band", featuring the Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre characters. In addition, all ShowBiz Pizza locations in the U.S. were rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese's, effectively ending the "ShowBiz Pizza" brand. By 1992, the conversion was complete, and ShowBiz Pizza Time became known as CEC Entertainment, Inc. In 1998 the company moved its stock from NASDAQ to NYSE. In February 2014, the company was purchased by Apollo Global Management for $1.3 billion.[7]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The History of Chuck E. Cheese's and ShowBiz Pizza". CEC Entertainment Inc. Retrieved January 15, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b "ShowBiz Pizza – Chuck E Cheese Saga". Burger Beast. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2012-08-16. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Wagner, Diane (September 5, 1981). "Show Time at Pizza Chain". New York Times.
  4. ^ Vartan, Vartanig (March 29, 1984). "Pizza Time Files For Protection". New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ Oates, Sarah (July 15, 1985). "Chuck E. Cheese Gets New Lease on Life". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 4, 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ CEC Entertainment, Inc. - Company History
  7. ^ "Apollo to Buy Out Chuck E. Cheese Parent". New York Times. January 16, 2014.