The film library at the International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame is in need of a facelift.
Headquartered across the street from Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, the museum is a valuable resource for filmmakers who want to make use of its vast archives of bowling footage. It has miles and miles of the stuff — everything from TV coverage of professional bowling tournaments to footage of presidents knocking down pins on an alley in the White House basement.
The problem is that much of this historic material exists in an out-of-date format, a technology that harks back to the previous millennia, and it’s decomposing in storage canisters.
“We have more than a half-million feet of film that needs to be digitized,” museum curator Jessica Bell says. “If we don’t act soon to convert it, the collection will disintegrate.”
Alas, saving it will be expensive.
“To have the film cleaned and converted,” says Gregg Williams, the museum’s director of development, “the cost for just two hours of film is $1,000.”
That’s why the IBM/HOF has launched a fundraising project called Frame for Frame that focuses on saving the decaying film stock, cataloging the footage and making it more accessible to future filmmakers. The museum hopes to raise $200,000 to apply toward this cause.
The campaign begins Thursday with a private screening of the film Sex, Death and Bowling and with the opening of a new exhibit that celebrates the history of Hollywood and bowling.
Sex, Death and Bowling is a project of actress-turned-director Ally Walker. It stars Adrian Grenier of Entourage fame and has yet to get a substantial theatrical release, but Walker says the movie will be available on iTunes and Netflix in the coming months.
Through the years, the sport has been featured in numerous movies, such as The Big Lebowski, Kingpin, Lars and the Real Girl, King Ralph and The Deer Hunter.
The museum is planning additional screenings in 2016 with The Big Lebowski and Kingpin — two of the best-known movies in the group. Sex, Death and Bowling was chosen to kick off the Frame for Frame program, however, because the museum played an important part in helping Walker complete it.
The archival footage in the film, which includes scenes of 1970s and ’80s bowling legend Earl Anthony in action, came from the museum.
“The old footage is amazing, a real asset to the film,” Walker says. “And the people at the Bowling Museum were lovely to work with. I’m glad to have had them as a partner. I’m happy to get behind anything they need.”
So even though the screening is limited to an invitation-only audience of about 200, Walker plans to be on hand Thursday to meet museum visitors when the exhibit opens.
Also present will be cast member Lyle Kanouse, a Fort Worth native who has become something of an unofficial cheerleader for the museum’s fundraising efforts.
“I donated my personal bowling ball, my bowling shoes and the bowling shirt that I wore in the movie,” he says. “Quite a few of my old Castleberry High School classmates will be coming, too.”
After checking out photos and props that chronicle the history of Hollywood and bowling, visitors can continue to the permanent display, which opens with a whimsical representation of an Egyptian mummy, wrapped up for eternity with his right hand still gripping his trusty bowling ball.
Sex, Death and Bowling is also available for purchase on DVD(http://montereymedia.com/sexdeathandbowling/internationalbowlingmuseum), with half of the proceeds going to the Frame for Frame fundraising efforts.
The film is about a young boy whose father is dying of cancer and estranged family members who pull together to compete in a local bowling tournament.
Walker, whose higher-profile acting credits include such TV series as Profiler and Sons of Anarchy, says the story was inspired by real life.
“Four or five years ago, I had a lot of people in my life who were very ill, some with cancer,” she says. “My father and my sister-in-law died, my grandmother died, my best friend (died), to cancer.
“It made me think about how important it is to be good to each other and to let go of mistakes and pettiness and to love each other while we can.”
Walker isn’t a bowler, she admits, but she has a cherished bowling memory from childhood that inspired her to weave the sport into the film.
“My dad had a bowling trophy, which I always thought was funny, because he had never been a bowler,” she says. “But somehow he won a tournament in college. Just went out with his friends and won it.
“So we always had that trophy in the house.”
International Bowling Museum & Hall of Fame
- 621 Six Flags Drive, Arlington
- Hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
- Admission is $9.50 adults, $7.50 seniors and children ages 4 to 18.