Strike! Film Festival Debuts to Benefit Bowling Museum

Courtesy of Monterey Media
'Sex, Death and Bowling'

The International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame in Texas has launched an effort to raise $200,000 to digitize and organize 500,000 feet of film. The event will screen movies such as 'Kingpin' and 'The Big Lebowski' as well as 'Sex, Death and Bowling' from the filmmaker wife of FX's John Landgraf.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

In episode 70 of Celebrity Bowling, actors from The Mod Squad scored 266, just 34 points short of a perfect game. The syndicated series ended its seven-year run in 1978, and footage from that show, along with clips from movies and TV shows featuring Mickey Rooney, Tiny Tim, Don Adams, Carroll O'Connor, Jayne Mansfield and others bowling, is being lost daily to celluloid degradation.

Now the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame in Texas has launched an effort to digitize and organize its 500,000 feet of film, which it stores in 1,500 canisters. Job No. 1 is raising the $200,000 needed, which it is doing through a yearlong film festival dubbed "Frame by Frame" that kicked off Dec. 3 with Sex, Death and Bowling, a family drama written and directed by Ally Walker, wife of FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. 

The festival is raising money via ticket sales ($25 a pop) and sponsorships from MillerCoors beer, Dripping Springs Vodka and others. Future bowling-themed films include Kingpin and The Big Lebowski.

Coinciding with the festival, the Arlington-based museum debuted a new exhibit detailing Hollywood's relationship with the sport, which includes scripts, props and video culled from archives.

Bowling remains one of the most popular sports in the country, with 63 million Americans partaking each year and 98.5 percent saying they have bowled at least once In their lifetime, according to Strike 10 Entertainment, a bowling marketing firm that is also a sponsor of the new film festival.

Hollywood's heyday with the sport was in the 1950s, so much of the footage features celebrities from that era, says Gregg Williams, the museum's director of development. He says the earliest reel is probably Strikes and Spares, a 1934 MGM short film featuring pro bowler Andy Varipapa performing trick shots, though he acknowledges the collection is in such disarray there might be older footage that he's unaware of. "We don't even know what we have," says Williams. "We could be sitting on a treasure trove of stuff."