“It’s like a funeral,” Weeks told CNN of the museum’s closure. “There’s no place like this place. There probably never will be.”
The museum had an enviable collection of pinball and arcade games
Weeks’ obsession with pinball has gone through phases, but it first peaked when he was in middle school, he said.
“When I saw my first pinball machine, I was just 13 or 14 years old, at a motel my dad stayed at in San Diego,” he said.
At the time, he said, he imagined it was the only machine of its kind in the world. So when he returned home and found out how many more pinball machines there were, he looked for ways to make his hobby into a business.
He approached a friend about opening a “barcade,” but by the time those plans fell through, Weeks had already started amassing a sizable collection of pinball machines. They’d need a facility large enough to store them all — and Weeks found the warehouse in Banning, a small city around 80 miles east of Los Angeles.
The Museum of Pinball also had an enviable assortment of old-school arcade games, which will be auctioned off. Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
The museum, housed in a 44,000-square-foot warehouse flanked by mountains, had housed around 800 pinball machines and just under 1,000 arcade games, Weeks said. They were all playable, and “people used to visit this place from all over the world” to spend all day playing retro arcade games.
The museum ultimately wasn’t profitable, though, due to its very limited schedule. Weeks tried to offset the cost of running the place by renting space to marijuana growers, he said, but it wasn’t enough to keep the pinball paradise open.
The neatly organized Museum of Pinball is closing, and its entire inventory of pinball machines will be sold to individual buyers. Credit: Lucas Esposito/The Desert Sun/USA TODAY NETWORK
There was hope, briefly, that Weeks could relocate the museum to a new location in Palm Springs. Ultimately, the process of moving 1,700 oversized gaming consoles would’ve been too expensive, Weeks said.
If you can name a hyper-specific piece of pop culture, chances are that Weeks’ museum had it in pinball form. From Dolly Parton, to “Lethal Weapon 3” and “Star Wars” to the the Pinball Wizard of The Who’s “Tommy,” there was a branded pinball machine (or, in the case of “Star Wars,” at least seven) for that.
The Museum of Pinball had an eclectic collection of machines, all of which will be sold at auction. Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
“Each one’s kind of a work or art,” he said.
There are similar shrines to the arcade centerpiece on the West Coast, including the Pacific Pinball Museum, Weeks noted. But their collections often are not as large or expansive as the Museum of Pinball’s once was.
“There’s other pinball museums popping up — just nothing like this,” he said. “This is like the Disneyland of pinball museums.”
The final auctions of the Museum of Pinball’s collection will take place virtually from September 24 to 26 through Captain’s Auction Warehouse.