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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 Topeka, Kansas in 1980 by Robert L. Brock, owner of Brock Hotel Corporation. At the time, Brock was quite successful as one of the largest franchisers in the Holiday Inn hotel system. Eighty percent of Showbiz Pizza Place 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, the company purchased the assets of Chuck E. Cheese's, after that company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. They then proceeded to change the name of the company to Showbiz Pizza Time, Inc. Both restaurants were kept operating as separate entities. After disagreements over a period of years with Creative, Showbiz management decided to go ahead with a restructuring of the restaurants called "Concept Unification". This would consist of renovating all Showbiz animation into Chuck E. Cheese characters, as well as renaming all stores to "Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza". This would be the end for the concept known as "Showbiz Pizza Place", although the company is still in business, as 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. They are now known as CEC Entertainment Concepts, L.P.
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 others converted to independent concepts, such as "Circus Pizza" (not to be confused with Circus World Pizza) and "Billy Bob's Wonderland" in Barboursville, WV, where the classic Rock-afire Explosion Band is still active. There are less than a handful of these stores still operational.
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, United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait. [ There has been one return of the brand in the United States, where it is now called Showbiz Pizza Zone. It is now closed. ]