ShowBiz Pizza Place
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ShowBiz Pizza Place was a restaurant chain 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, in 1980 by Robert L. 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 1982, the company moved its headquarters to Irving, Texas. In 1984, ShowBiz Pizza purchased the assets of Chuck E. Cheese's (C.E.C) after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They then proceeded to change the name of the company to ShowBiz Pizza Time, Inc.; however 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. They also implemented a "Honorary Rock-Afire Band Member" program. Seven year-old Jessica Levine of Kansas City, MO became the first, and only, child Rock-Afire Band member. 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 renovating all ShowBiz animation into Chuck E. Cheese characters and renaming all stores to Chuck E. Cheese's. This would mark the end of the concept known as "ShowBiz Pizza." Although the company is 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 1998, ShowBiz Pizza Place was disestablished, changed its name to CEC Entertainment, Inc., and moved its stock from NASDAQ to NYSE.
The majority of former Showbiz Pizza Place locations were converted into Chuck E. Cheese's. At the current time, there are around 83 converted "Rock-afire Explosion" shows still in use as "3-Stage" Chuck E. Cheese shows. Some stores were also closed at this time, while other former ShowBiz locations converted to independent concepts.
There are a few restaurants still using the Showbiz Pizza Place name and animation. All are located outside the United States, and have no connection to the original company. Known locations are in Lebanon, Dubai, and United Arab Emirates. One also operated in Salmiya, Kuwait, but was firebombed during the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait. There has been one return of the brand in the United States, where it was called Showbiz Pizza Zone. It is now closed, and the building is now home to RentSmart.
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