Theatre of Magic is a Physical Pinball Table designed by John Popadiuk with art by Linda Doane. it was released by Williams Electronics under its Bally label in 1995, and went on to become the best-selling pinball machine of the year.
The game casts the player as an aspiring magician performing a show in the theatre. With the help of the spinning Magician's Trunk on the playfield, you must pull rabbits out of hats, escape from a strait jacket, saw assistants in half, instantly transform into various animals, and perform other illusions. Particularly skillful players can enter the basement and invoke Midnight Madness, but only a Master Magician will be able to perform the Grand Finale and leave the audience mesmerized.
Theatre of Magic remains popular with many players today, though some think there's too much emphasis on shooting the Magician's Trunk. Pinball fans often get into heated arguments when comparing it to Pinball Magic; Theatre fans praise its non-linear gameplay, fast action, and player-friendly rules and design.
A digital version of the game was formerly available as part of FarSight Studios' The Pinball Arcade collection until their license to all Williams and Bally tables expired on July 1, 2018. Another digital version is currently available for Pinball FX3, along with a remastered version that includes the typical Zen Studios flair.
"The next performance is about to begin!" "Shoot for the magic Tropes!"
- Almost Out of Oxygen: The "Trunk Escape" illusion, which locks the magician in an underwater trunk, then gives the player a limited air supply (time limit) to complete.Announcer: "The air pressure is building!"
- Ambiguous Situation: while the player's role is a Stage Magician, their actual position is ambiguous. The woman on the backglass and speaking during the game is referred to as "the assistant" in the rules sheet, and during the escape tricks she tells the player "You must break free"; yet if the mode is completed, the DMD shows that she was the one escaping. So are we her, or are we helping her, or vice versa?
- Amusing Injuries: Get a Secret Lock shows the announcer/instructor falling down a very tall staircase.
- Animorphism: The "Metamorphosis" illusion, where the magician turns into various animals, such as a dove, a tiger, or a cobra.Magician: "I am only an illusion..."
- Announcer Chatter: Very excited chatter, at that.
- Anti-Frustration Feature: In addition to a ball saver, hitting the "Hocus Pocus" target enables two magnetic ball savers near the outlanes, which catch any wayward balls. They're one-time usage for each drain, but they're easy to relight.
- Boring, but Practical: Shooting the left orbit ad nauseum is arguably the best strategy for getting a high score - It is a very safe, repeatable shot that does many things that synergize with each other. It advances towards and starts the Theatre Hurry-Up, whose value is built up by the jet bumpers which also get fed by the left-orbit shot. The T-H-E-A-T-R-E letters themselves are worth points in bonus, and the same shot builds the bonus multiplier as well. And once the bonus multiplier is maxed out, further completions of the Bonus X lanes are worth a non-trivial bonus as well.
- Bowdlerise: The Pinball FX version gives the magician's assistant a more modest dress that covers up her cleavage.
- Combo: Scoring bigger combos prompts excited exclamations from the Announcer.Announcer: "Amazing!... Marvelous!... MAGNIFICENT!"
- Company Cross References:
- During "Hat Magic", the third item produced is a telephone, and the person on the other end yells, "MOVE YOUR CAR!"
- During "Metamorphosis", one of the animals the lady turns into is a snack bar attendant who says "Here's your hot dog."
- Escape Artist: The "Trunk Escape", "Safe Escape". and "Strait Jacket" illusions.
- In-Universe Game Clock: The clock is advanced by shooting the right orbit or as a Skill Shot award, but When the Clock Strikes Twelve, it will run backwards.
- Large Ham: The announcer.
- Magicians Are Wizards: although the game's art is themed around stage magic, the tricks are described as performed using actual magic.
- Match Sequence: The magician produces two doves from her hands, which fly off and produce the final number.
- Ms. Fanservice: The magician on the backglass has a prominent cleavage. She gets a higher neckline in the Pinball FX version.
- Pinball Scoring: This table played fast and loose with seven- or even eight-digit rewards. It wouldn't be uncommon to see a Replay at value cross the billion point threshold...or more.
- Pull a Rabbit out of My Hat: The "Hat Magic" illusion, which produces rabbits, doves, and a telephone.
- Random Drop: Occurs when shooting the Secret Basement.
- Saw a Woman in Half: The "Tiger Saw" illusion, which cuts a woman in half, then a pinball machine in half.
- Shout-Out: The padlocks on the sides of the cabinet are from the "Joos Lock Company", a reference to longtime Williams' mechanical engineer Joe Joos Jr.
- Show Within a Show: The "Video pinball" Video Mode.
- Signature Style: Theatre has all the hallmarks of a John Popadiuk pin — a magic theme, prominent use of magnets, a captive ball target, out-of-the-way pop bumpers, and a spinning Magician's Trunk toy.
- Skill Shot:
Announcer: "Amazing skill!"
- Hit the trunk after launching the ball to receive one of three player-selected rewards.
- When you lock a ball or make a ball vanish, hitting the captive ball after launching the ball will advance the clock.
- Spelling Bonus: Shoot the ramps to spell MAGIC to enable the multiball locks, and spell THEATRE for a ten-second opportunity to shoot the trunk and collect the Theatre Bonus. The Grand Finale requires spelling MAGIC THEATRE in 60 seconds.
- Spikes of Doom: During the "Strait Jacket" illusion, the magician must escape while trapped between two spiked walls closing together.
- Spinning Clock Hands: Midnight Madness has the clock hands moving backwards towards noon.
- Staircase Tumble: Getting a Secret Ball Lock shows an animation of this on the display.Announcer: "This ball is full of magic!"
- Timed Mission: All of the illusions, the Theatre Hurry-Up, Video Mode, and the Wizard Mode are timed.
- Video Mode: One of the random options in the Basement is Video Pinball. You play for 30 seconds, trying to hit all six targets for an extra ball.
- Wall Crawl: One of the sides of the Magic Trunk allows the pinball to cling to it.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Advancing the clock to midnight starts Midnight Madness; the clock goes backwards from midnight, and each shot to the Magician's Trunk scores 2 million times the current hour.
- Wizard Mode: "Grand Finale", which is only available after performing all eight illusions, spelling THEATRE, advancing the clock to midnight, and playing Theatre Multiball at least once. The Finale itself gives you one ball and 60 seconds to make 12 major shots and spell MAGIC THEATRE. You get 50 million points per letter, and another 500 million if you pull it off.