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One Show At Last...

Posted On: 3/3/2010

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Amusement and Music Operators Association, AMOA, American Amusement Machine Association, AAMA, International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry, IAAPA, Fun Expo, Amusement Expo, jukebox, videogame, pinball machine, vending machine, coin machine operator, vendor, amusement industry, amusement trade, family entertainment centers, arcade industry, arcade games, amusement parks, theme parks, coin-op, coin-op games, coin-op news, Vending Times, Marcus Webb

After 20 years of everyone agreeing that the U.S. music and amusement industry had "too many shows." At last ... after 20 years of well-intentioned talks between a long series of negotiating teams from the Amusement and Music Operators Association and the American Amusement Machine Association. At last ... after 20 years of association boards that could not, or would not, agree on management, money or scheduling. At last ... after 20 years of painful compromises and tentative proposals that never quite jelled into signed contracts.

At last, the trade's big spring and fall shows have morphed into what everybody always agreed that the industry needed: "one show." To make the moment even sweeter, the U.S. industry's FEC-focused show will be folded into the mix. Amusement Expo and the collocated Fun Expo run March 10 to 12 in Las Vegas, combining the former fall show owned by the AMOA with the former spring show owned by AAMA.

For good measure, Fun Expo -- now 50% owned by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions -- is also integrated into this long-awaited event. IAPPA acquired a half interest in Fun Expo last year as a result of its merger with International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry.

Amusement Expo/Fun Expo truly is "one show" despite having two separate seminar tracks with two separate price schedules. Participants will walk into one exhibit hall where Amusement Expo exhibits will comingle with Fun Expo exhibits. There is no dividing line running down the middle of the hall to demarcate two expositions, as was done at so many "collocated" shows in the past.

Perhaps we should all take a moment to think about just how remarkable this unified event really is. More to the point, maybe we should all savor this moment while it lasts. What makes this month's "one show" so extraordinary is not simply the fact that it was 20 years in the making, but also the fact that "one show" could conceivably last just "one year."

No one believes that AMOA and AAMA will split their shows apart again. But a rival show (or shows) could easily arrive next year, or the year after that. We have only to look to the example of London, just two months back, to see how quickly a once-dominant solo event can turn into an occasion for competing expositions. For years, London's Amusement Trades Exhibition International enjoyed a virtual lock on the European trade show scene. In fact, ATEI's position was so strong that its owners and organizers could get away with calling it "The Show." Today that is no longer the case. There were two credible trade shows in London in January 2009 and again in January 2010. This pattern appears likely to continue for some time. Could the same thing happen in the U.S.? Yes, it could -- in a heartbeat.

The devolution of "one show" back into "more than one show" could occur in several ways. To begin with, nobody really knows what IAPPA will decide to do with Fun Expo after this year. Leaders of the amusement parks association have assiduously avoided commenting on Fun Expo's future, saying that any decision must wait until after this month's unified event has run its course.

Others are not so reticent. We have heard it suggested -- more than once, and by credible sources -- that IAAPA just might attempt to set up Fun Expo as a standalone spring show ... sort of second-season attractions show marketed as a companion to the IAAPA Attractions Expo held annually in the fall. (All this is pure speculation for now, it should be noted. But it is not entirely unreasonable speculation.)

If a standalone Fun Expo did happen, could it become the same sort of rival to Amusement Expo that the fall IAAPA show became to AMOA Expo? Also, could a brand-new fall show be introduced to "fill the vacuum" where AMOA Expo used to exist? We have heard credible sources comment on that possibility, too.

For the moment, however, let's simply agree with the leaders of all three associations -- AMOA, AAMA and IAAPA -- that it's too early to speculate at any greater length about all this. It is also too early to seriously contemplate any possible merger of AMOA and AAMA. Right now, we have one show. Wisely, trade leaders are focusing on making sure that show is a success. At the same time, acknowledging what might happen in the future only serves to underscore the achievement of this month's unified Amusement Expo/Fun Expo ... and makes it all the more praiseworthy.