When I got laid off in the late aughts, it was no coincidence that I spent the better part of a weekend trying to run up a perfect score on Wii Bowling. I managed a 299. In real life, I’ve never gotten anywhere close to a perfect game, but most anyone who knows me well has been bowling with me. So when I saw “Right Up Our Alley,” a drone video filmed at the Bryant Lake Bowl & Theater in south Minneapolis, it struck me on many levels.
Sure, I appreciate the 90-second film’s technical wizardry, which the New York Times points out impressed Hollywood directors like Lee Unkrich (Coco) and James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). Thumbs up also to the subtle dialogue nod to Minnesota-born Coen Brothers’ bowling classic The Big Lebowski.
But moreso, for me, the slickly edited clip was a window into social behavior that many of us have sorely missed during the pandemic. Friends and hangouts and habits are not exclusive to Lake Street or 7-10 splits. The experiences and memories created at places like roller gardens, dive bars, bingo nights, karaoke parlors, pool halls, improv theaters, late-night diners, and music venues all share DNA with the Bryant Lake Bowl.
It got me thinking about being in my 20s at Melody Lanes and Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York, and being a teen at the Jesse James Lanes in Northfield, Minnesota. Bowling alleys bring together groups to do something (usually) affordably and memorably. Some people choose to take it seriously, and others can’t wait to throw the ball between their legs. I remember eating hot fries in between frames, germs and grit be damned.
Most bowling alleys are set up so you can have a satisfying hang even if you’re not playing—but you still need to rent shoes! And I remembered past birthdays and brunches at Bryant Lake Bowl. For the Uptown area, it has long been a nook where the dining and bar atmosphere, the events in the theater, and the seats out front are also featured attractions.
Seeing what Rally Studios‘ cinematographer Jay Christensen and director Anthony Jaska did with a drone swooping in the space was actually not surprising. Christensen was part of the team that provided breathtaking footage of the empty streets around the Twin Cities in the pandemic’s earlier months. This one brought out so many of the Bryant Lake Bowl’s best attributes, as well as spots most of us had never seen before. Did it make me want to go bowling? Absolutely.
“It’s been a tough year for Lake Street, and not just because of COVID,” Christensen told KARE 11. “All the buildings that were burned made me really think that if there was a day where Bryant Lake Bowl wasn’t here, that’d be a bummer for sure. So if we can help out with the shot and be creative in the meantime, I think it’s a win-win all around.”
Across the U.S., traditional bowling alleys were heavily at risk before any shutdowns—and many have stayed open by diversifying their offerings. Basically, the ones more like Bryant Lake Bowl. (By the way, it’s open for bowling, for dine-in, and for takeout.) It’s easy to extrapolate from this video’s runaway viral success that the pent-up desire to be together in social spaces—safely, mind you—is on a lot of our minds. Right up our alley, even.