BUYERS DOWN 14%, CAMARADERIE UP 200% AT ASI CHICAGO
CHICAGO - The Windy City was the host city for the Amusement Showcase International, held at a downtown hotel from March 3 through 5. Sponsored by the American Amusement Machine Association, and endorsed by AMOA and IALEI, it was the amusements industry's first national exposition to be held at the Hyatt Regency on Wacker Drive since 1988. Downloading jukebox conversion kits headlined the show; participants saw a plethora of redemption games, but only a handful of brand-new video offerings. The Chicago weather and unions both cooperated with ASI, and industry members clearly enjoyed the "all-for-one" feeling at the Hyatt's Big Bar each night. "The biggest success of the show was the bar scene," said show committee co-chairman Sal Mirando. "People loved it; it was just like the old days."
As expected, operator attendance from the West and Southwest was markedly down while operator attendance from the Midwest was somewhat higher than previous years. A hoped-for flood of new operators from the Northeast Corridor did not materialize, however. AAMA was pleased that exhibitors were up 16% over last year, reaching 140, and that paid booth space was up 12% to 442 units this year, said Mirando. At the same time, he noted that organizers were "disappointed" that attendance from the East Coast was not stronger. Preliminary figures showed the overall buyer count down 14% from 2004. "Results are encouraging but could have been better," he said. Speaking for himself as an exhibitor, Mirando said he'd rather see "fewer but newer" operator faces than the exact same crowd that has attended ASI's Vegas outings for the past decade. The AAMA board of directors has booked space in both Chicago and Las Vegas for March 16-18, 2006; a final decision as to the host city be will be made in two or three weeks, depending largely on exhibitor feedback.
CONVERSION KIT LEADS STRONG JUKEBOX SHOW FOR ASI
CHICAGO , Jukeboxes were the talk of the 2005 ASI, and the buzz began with a new conversion kit that allows operators to transform certain Rowe CD models into Ecast-powered downloading units. The kit, called "JukeBoost," is the brainchild of operator Rick Caviglia of California Amusement Group (San Leandro, CA). He's manufacturing and selling the kit through a new company called View Interactive Entertainment Corp., in cooperation with Ecast and its distribution network. The kit, which retails for less than $3,000, includes a 15-in. touchscreen monitor and a core computer with necessary cables. It can be installed in under two hours in Rowe "100" series (models A/B, C/D and E) floor models and second-generation CD wall-mount Rowe jukeboxes; it works through any broadband connection. More information is available at http://www.viewmfg.com.
Also debuting at ASI '05 was "Evolution," a conversion kit from NSM Music that allows its wall-mount CD jukeboxes to be revamped into an Ecast-powered downloading model. The NSM kit includes new front door with touchscreen monitor; operators can send in their old CD units and have NSM do the conversion and refurbishing. Rock-Ola (which has no plans for an Ecast conversion kit) bowed its new "9000 CD" floor model, featuring the basic cabinet seen in its "E-Rock." Rowe unveiled the "CD 100 L" featuring a CD mechanism in a "NiteStar" type cabinet, while reminding operators that its "Nomad" kit converts "Saturn" and "Saturn II" Rowe CD boxes into hybrid units with flash memory for downloaded songs. Rowe also offers a kit that converts TouchTunes jukeboxes to the AMI Entertainment broadband-supported network system and content service. TouchTunes itself displayed units with a new, proprietary computer making for lower prices and easier modular upgrades. TouchTunes expects to release an improved broadband conversion kit by summer for its dial-up models (some 300 TouchTunes units were converted to broadband with a kit that was released 14 months ago).
JUKEBOX LICENSE OFFICE SAYS MARCH 15 DEADLINE WILL BE STRICTLY ENFORCED
NASHVILLE, TN , The March 15 deadline for operators to make licensing fee payments to the Jukebox License Office will be strictly observed this year, JLO officials have informed the Amusement and Music Operators Association. The JLO had allowed some "wiggle room" in previous years. AMOA executive vice-president Jack Kelleher advised that to qualify for the $24 discount per jukebox license (after the first JLO license is paid), an operator must do two things: (1) Join or renew their membership in AMOA before the March 15 deadline. Dues payment must be received (not postmarked) by that date in order for AMOA to verify membership status to JLO. (2) Pay their JLO fees by the same deadline. If operators send in their JLO payment by the deadline, but fail to join or renew their AMOA membership in time, the discount will not be honored by the JLO. The same holds in reverse: if operators join/renew in AMOA by the deadline, but don't get their JLO fees paid by March 15, no discount. More information is available at http://www.amoa.com and http://www.jukeboxlicense.com.
AAMA WILL HOLD MIDYEAR BOARD MEETING, DISTRIBUTOR GALA IN JULY
CHICAGO , The Allerton Crown Plaza Hotel will be the site of the midyear board meeting of the American Amusement Machine Association from July 21-22. AAMA will elect new officers, including the successor to outgoing president Frank Cosentino (Namco America). The last night of the conference, Friday, July 22, will see AAMA host its second annual Distributor Gala. The popular event combines a cocktail party with a distributor preview of new equipment. More information is available from http://www.coin-op.org.
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