Time-Out Arcade: Amazing Classic Arcade Pictures

A remarkable set of photographs to share with you this week.

Time-Out Amusement Centers were a chain of arcades located in malls across America back in the day. As the brainchild of entrepreneur Tico Bonomo, they were striking-looking places, notable by their bold colours and ‘Tunnel’-like appearance – a pastiche of what the arcade scene represented at the time, designed to lure the public inside.

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Time-Out’s “Tunnel” branding concept

Bonomo was no stranger to success. He had just sold his family interest in the ‘Turkish Taffy’ candy bar range – a hugely popular confectionary product – to a large manufacturer. The Time-Out Amusement Center business was funded from the proceeds of the sale.

So in 1970, the first Time-Out was opened to the public in Northway Mall in Colonie, New York. To Bonomo’s surprise, it was incredibly successful. Punters flocked to the arcade and played its electro-mechanical machines relentlessly. But then came Pong and the start of the video game craze, which peaked during the Golden Age between 1979 and 1984. The vision came good – whilst no-one could have predicted the incredible success of video arcade games, the Time-Out idea was perfectly placed to exploit this new craze.

Each arcade ran with the same theme – tunnels and bright colours, but all were unique in design. Presumably to fit the space where they were located:

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Time-Out arcade in Connecticut
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if you were a kid in the 70s, how could you resist this?

By 1977, there were 24 Time-Out Arcades located mainly to the east of the USA, and the figure continued to grow massively, buoyed by the arrival of Space Invaders and the resulting raging demand to play video games. Couple this with the massive growth in consumer spending during that time (which led to more and more shopping malls being built), the company behind Time-Out was perfectly placed to generate income by opening new arcades. With each new Mall that sprung up, you could guarantee that an arcade would be located there, and it was likely to be a Time-Out.

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Looking down into the back of the Time-Out arcade setup

Collectors of a certain age will remember these arcades – Bonomo’s idea of locating what he called Family Amusement Centers in shopping malls was a new enterprise, and one he thought would work well. Unsurprisingly, it was a genius move; shoppers could leave their kids to play the machines while they shopped elsewhere in the mall, or indeed, use the promise of a visit to Time-Out as a bribe for good behaviour on an otherwise dull shopping trip!

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Not sure how Heath & Safety rules today would apply to the base of those wooden circles

Passing footfall was not a problem, and locating an arcade in a place where consumers would have money and be in a spending mindset, of course made perfect sense.

Time-Out was the first of its kind, but the model was soon copied as ‘me-too’ arcades sprung up in similar locations, following the same business model. These included the Space Port, Time Zone, Station Break, Malibu Grand Prix and Aladdin’s Castle chains – all of whom cashed in handsomely on the huge surge of the arcade wave of the late 70s and 80s. Indeed, it was not unusual for more than one arcade to be located within the same mall – such was the demand from consumers to get in on the video craze.

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Great layout of cabs here. Lunar Lander on the right, Missile Command, Sega Carnival on the left.

The more hardcore arcade-nuts amongst you may have seen these pictures floating around before – the story behind them is a little sketchy, but in short it is believed that someone spotted them in a dumpster, and realising their significance, managed to rescue them just in the nick of time.

The captures you see here are of the original slides that were found, projected onto a wall and then photographed. Some of the images were shown in the movie Chasing Ghosts, and collector Peter Hirschberg shared them on his now-defunct website in the early 2000s. Peter has been kind enough to allow me to host the pictures here, to give them a new home, and to get the images seen by a wider audience.

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This group of photos showcases some great shots of Golden Age video games in situ:

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Judging by some of these Bronze age machines, I’d say this was late 70s. There’s an Atari LeMans down on the right there!
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More 70s machines – note the red spangly Computer Space
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Again, late 70s. That’s a Maneater cabinet there in white
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This Exidy Victory machine puts this picture circa 1982
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A family enjoying Nintendo’s Donkey Kong
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A stunning Computer Space cabinet. 70s era
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Early 80s here. Frogger and Pac-Man cabinets visible
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Zaxxon, Donkey Kong and a hint of a Stargate upright – great stuff. 1982 I’d say
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Midway Galaxian, Gottlieb No Man’s Land, Atari Centipede, Armor Attack and Battlezone
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Several classics here. I spy a Star Wars, Donkey Kong Junior and Ms Pac-Man

With the crash of 1984, came the consolidation of the arcade industry. Time-Out survived a patchwork of take-overs and mergers, and struggled through the rest of the 80s and early nineties serving up redemption based games to the public. This short YouTube video gives a little history of Time-Out and is worth a watch:

I must thank Peter Hirschberg for his permission to host these images, and also Jim Miller who found the orignal slides in a dumpster way back when. I’ve tried hard to track Jim down, but he seems to have disappeared from the scene and the web altogether. There are many more pictures in the set apparently. Jim, if you’re reading this, please do get in touch.

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Staff posing outside the Time-Out Arcade in upstate New York. Note the guy playing Tempest

Scroll to the foot of the page for the full gallery of images, there’s over 70 to see. Click on the thumbnails for the full-size photos.

So that’s it for this week – thank you for visiting Arcade Blogger. Do subscribe to the blog below, and share this article using your social media channels – I appreciate it!

See you next week.

Tony

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. zyx74 says:

    Reblogged this on .

    Like

  2. Dana E says:

    I wanna go back and do it all over…

    Like

  3. Brian says:

    Articles like these make this blog a true gem for us older folks who remember these things. Been following and reading this blog for a couple of months now, and I am astounded at the wealth of content and depth of knowledge posted here. Thank you for sharing all of these memories and cabinet hunts and such with us.

    I am also fortunate to have a nice independently run arcade in my area. In the town of Ann Arbor, MI, where the University of MI is located, there is an arcade there called Pinball Pete’s which has been there for many years. They have redemption games, pinball games (including new model pinball games), DDR and other bemani games, fighting games, and all sorts of classics from the early 80s to early 2000’s. If and when I ever have money, it’s always worth the drive there to spend an hour or two and grab a bubble tea next door, and the owner makes sure he fixes the games and keeps them up. https://www.yelp.com/biz/pinball-petes-ann-arbor

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Andy | HomeLeisureDirect.com says:

    Hi Tony,

    This is a great article – would you mind if I share this on our FB page?

    I’ve been enjoying going back through all your articles in your blog. It’s a great read!

    All the best. Kind Regards,

    Andy

    Like

  5. neil1637 says:

    What an amazing collection of photos. Tony, this article is one of your best as it captures something which no restoration, no matter how loving or meticulous can recreate. An era long since passed, but from these images you can really get a sense of the excitement as new machines came out and kids and adults alike, queued up, quarters and 10ps clutched, ready to invade space or capture pole position.
    Amazing stuff.
    Born to late – erm, just…..

    Liked by 1 person

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