Few may remember at this point that the 1982 special effects-driven sci-fi film “Tron” all started in an arcade. In the film, Jeff Bridges’ character, Kevin Flynn, is a software engineer who starts up an arcade after his former co-worker, Ed Dillinger, played by David Warner, steals and takes credit for numerous video games Flynn had developed. The same arcade showed up years later in the film’s 2010 sequel, “Tron: Legacy,” directed by Joseph Kosinski, which also served as the basis for the 2011 pinball machine produced by Stern.
Originally founded as Stern Electronics in 1977 after the Stern family purchased the struggling pinball machine manufacturer Chicago Coin, Stern would go on to weather the decimation of the pinball industry in the ’90s, opting to refocus on franchise-themed tables in 1999. Brand-focuses pinball machines produced by Stern after the turn of the millennium include the likes of “Lord of the Rings” in 2003, “Pirates of the Caribbean” in 2006 and “The Walking Dead” in 2014.
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When “Tron: Legacy” debuted in 2010, the film was such a natural aesthetic fit for pinball that the company would go on to create a special edition with chrome trim, fiber optic light tubes and a toy Recognizer ship. While the standard pinball table may not have the bells and whistles of the special edition, it’s no slouch. In fact, there are four standard editions of the machine, each with different back glass art.
The Stern’s “Tron: Legacy” machine was designed by pinball designer and technician John Borg, who helmed such machines as “Star Wars” in 1992 and “Tales from the Crypt” in 1993 while at Data East. Data East was the pinball company purchased by Sega in 1994, then sold to Stern Electronics in 1999 when the company rebranded as Stern Pinball. The machine, which weighs 280 pounds, has three flippers, a spinning target and three target-dropping banks.
“Tron: Legacy” was a moderate success at the box office, raking in a little over $400 million over its lifespan on a budget of $170 million. While there were originally plans for a sequel, titled “Tron: Ascension,” the film had to contend with Disney’s newly acquired properties, Lucasfilm and Marvel, which have been producing box office juggernauts like “Captain America: Civil War” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” since their acquisition.
While the current state of the Grid’s cinematic prospects might leave some “Tron” fans feeling blue, Stern’s pinball machine is a collectible that can bring the digital frontier straight to your doorstep…if you can still find one.
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