Pizza Time Theatre

From Cheese-E-Pedia

Logo (1979)

Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre (Also known as just Pizza Time Theatre) was a pizza chain created by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell on May 17, 1977, lasting up until it filed for bankruptcy on March 28, 1984 and was merged into the competing ShowBiz Pizza Place on May 31, 1985, where it would later be named just Chuck E. Cheese's.

General History


Detailed History & Events


  • Nolan Bushnell, sophomore at the University of Utah going for an electrical engineering degree, is employed at the Lagoon amusement park sometime in 1966. With him stationed at various game booths, his job allows him to earn commission if he exceeds the quota of guests playing.[1]


  • In 1967 Nolan is promoted to a manager at the Lagoon, now handling the sales of the park's arcade. He would maximize the section's profit through rearrangement and adjustment of the cabinet settings. He would begin taking economics and accounting courses to improve his work.[1]


  • In 1969 Nolan would be hired by Ampex Corp as an Associate Engineer of the Videofile Information Systems Division. He would move from Utah to Redwood City, CA.[2]


  • Nolan would begin dreaming of owning an establishment featuring games and food.[3] He would plan for the entertainment center to serve pizza as it was an easy food to produce that couldn't be screwed up as long as the ingredients were good.[4]
  • Nolan would visit the Redwood City Pizza and Pipes and discover there was desire for entertainment alongside food, as seen by their organist playing throughout the day.[4][5]
  • He would make a trip to Disney Land and would be inspired by the animatronics of the Enchanted Tiki Room. He would settle on the restaurant's entertainment to be animatronic shows. Nolan would plan to build these computerized characters in his garage- and have the business franchised out to various locations.[3][4][5]


Early 74

  • At some point within late '73 to early '74, Nolan would begin his ideas for making an Atari arcade, as to have greater vertical integration into the video game market.[4]



Mid-Late 1974

  • Sometime before the November 1974 IAAPA convention, he would set the codename for his arcade restaurant project to be "Coyote Pizza".[4][8]


  • Just before the November IAAPA show, it would be stated Nolan's Coyote Pizza idea would be close to being greenlit for development at Atari.[4]
  • Nolan attends the 56th Annual IAAPA Convention. At the event he would purchase a generic rat costume from a costuming company to be shipped to the Atari offices later. Nolan would believe this costume to be of a coyote.[9][10] It is unconfirmed if Nolan had seen a different costume to the one he was eventually shipped, as other variants of the costume didn't have the rat tail or buck teeth- also being referred to by their owners as a coyote.[11]


  • Sometime after IAAPA '74, whether in December or early '75, the "coyote" costume would arrive at Atari. Upon realizing the character was a rat, Nolan would decide to name the character "Rick Rat".[12] The project's codename would thus now be "Rick Rat's Pizza".[4]



  • Atari would begin shopping itself to investors to raise capital for its planned future growth and projects.[13]





  • In May, Gene Landrum of National Semiconductor would do a market study of home video games for the Consumer Division. This would be Gene's first interaction with Nolan Bushnell.[15]
  • Sometime in May before Gene Landrum's hiring, Manny Gerard would meet with Nolan Bushnell to discuss the selling of Atari to Warner Communications. Nolan would bring up in the discussions his idea for a family entertainment center, using his rat costume he'd shown off around Atari as the central idea and mascot for the brand. Manny would not take interest in this concept, being more interested in the purchase for Atari's high tech productions.[16]
  • On May 26th, Gene Landrum would join Atari as assistant to the chairman of the board, still also employed at National Semiconductor.[17]


  • On June 19th, Atari would announce moving its corporate headquarters to the same complex as the Sunnyvale, CA Corporate Office and Sunnyvale, CA Manufacturing Offices, with the move planned to be done by September.
  • Around the week of the move announcement, the first public image of the Rick Rat Walkaround would be seen in a promotional photo for the event. This would be the first known instance of the character being called "Big Cheese", and it was labeled as an Atari mascot.[18]


  • Sometime in Summer, the first planned document of the animatronic entertainment would be written. The animatronics would consist of four characters, Big Cheese as the good guy & star- described as a large mouse and not a rat, a "Small Cat" noted as the antagonist of the group, a "Smaller Bulldog" described as a "real loser" and a "bad bad guy", and a "Large Bird" noted as an alter ego and a neutral-good party. The characters would have a "Mood Box" for guests to pick various shows from with a token, and it is said showtapes would be changed out quarterly. When characters wouldn't be performing, a projected TV screen would display "Mood Video Art" related to the previous selection and various related instrumental music would play.[19]
  • At some point after this, plans for the constructed arrangement of animation hardware would note 5 tape decks in the parts list, possibly meaning plans changed to have 10 skits available.[19]


  • On the 2nd, a set of building plans for the first restaurant would be written. The restaurant would be labeled as "The Big Cheese", and as a "Pizza Cabaret".[20]
  • Sometime in August, Gene Landrum would quit his job at National Semiconductor to work fully at Atari.[17] Atari opens the Restaurant Operating Division of the company to pursue the restaurant concept, Gene Landrum is appointed as General Manager of the division and President of the Atari Consumer Division.[21][22]


  • On the 7th Nolan Bushnell sells Atari to Warner Communications for $28,000,000.[23] Nolan stays as head of the company, but signs a 5 year non-compete agreement. Warner also signs to invest $120,000,000 into Atari, which Nolan is permitted to use for his restaurant concept.[24][9]


  • On the 4th Warner Communications finishes the purchasing of all Atari stock.[25]
  • On the 7th the The Big Cheese Birthday Show Dialogue Recording Session would take place. The audio would be produced at Wally Heider Studio (245 Hyde St., San Francisco, CA, 94102). The script for the session was written by Robert “Bob” Allan Black under the direction of Atari, Gene Landrum, and Nolan Bushnell. The producer for the show would be Ed Bogus Productions (680 Beach St. Suite 495, San Francisco, CA 94109). This would also be the first mention of the name "Crusty" for the cat character.


  • On December 22, the first known instance of the name "Pizza Time Theatre" is used.[26]



  • Sometime within the month an internal announcement at Atari would be made regarding the future San Jose, CA (370 S Winchester Blvd) store. It is unclear what form this announcement was made, but likely could have been a prior unseen issue of the Gospel of St. Pong.[27] The announcement is described as being made by the Big C himself, stating to "hang on a bit longer until the new restaurant is opened", citing delays with the city of San Jose- likely related to permits.[28]


  • In April, "The Gospel of St. Pong Revisited - Vol 4, April" newsletter would release to Atari employees, noting several pre-opening events


  • On the 16th, the copyright for Jasper T. Jowls would be filed.[29] The dated first use of the Pizza Time Theatre trademark would also be marked.[30]

Mid-Late 1977

  • Sometime after the opening of the first store while Nolan Bushnell was on a trip, Gene Landrum would put up a sign stating nobody under 18 was permitted in without a parent. This was due to sentiments around the time that arcade and pinball hangouts would attract drug users and "bad people", which Gene wanted the location to be perceived as a restaurant. Once Nolan had came back to California, he ordered Gene to take down the sign for being a silly rule, which Gene declined. Nolan would later come back a week later realizing it was a good idea, but forced the sign to be changed to anyone under 14.[31]


  • On June 2nd the floor plans for the second location, San Jose, CA (1371 Kooser Rd), would be drawn be Gene Landrum. The store would be called "Pizza Time Theatre II" and would feature the Piano Bar alongside an additional lounge for dining- away from the main show.[32]


  • In October, the first dated use of the Pizza Time Theatre trademark "in commerce" would be marked.[30]



  • On the 17th, the copyright for Foxy Colleen would be filed.[33]


  • On the 13th, the copyright for Foxy Colleen would be filed.[34]


  • On the 17th, 13 different copyright filings would be submitted. These would be "Chuck E. Cheese's theme", "How will I know?", "Roots in the country", "Endlessly awake, part 1", "Chuck E. Cheese (token)", "Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre (long sign)", "Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre (regular sign)", "Chuck E. Cheese (in frame)", "Chuck E. Cheese (standing)", "Crusty the cat (three full views)", "Crusty the cat (two head views)", "Billy Banjo Boggs", "Pasqually", "Singing magpies".[35]
  • On the 29th, the copyright for "Mister Munch" and The Mopsy Sisters would be filed.[36][37]



  • On the 19th, the application for the Pizza Time Theatre trademark would be filed.[30]



  • On the 3rd, the Pizza Time Theatre trademark would be registered in the US.[30]


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6
  5. 5.0 5.1
  7. 7.0 7.1
  9. 9.0 9.1
  10. A June 1975 photo confirms he had to have acquired it in '74. File:Rickyrat75time.png
  11. Rick Rat Walkaround
  17. 17.0 17.1
  19. 19.0 19.1 PTT Basic Ordering Agreement
  20. File:PROTO LAYOUT.jpg
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 30.3
  32. PTT Basic Ordering Agreement