Elmira Bowl transformed to serve as set for film shoot

Exterior of the building got an overhaul as a location for In the Tall Grass, based on the Stephen King novella

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[Veronica Reiner/ The Observer]

A small-town bowling alley has made it to the big screen … or soon will, as Elmira Bowl acted this week as a set for In the Tall Grass, a film starring Patrick Wilson based on a Stephen King novella of the same name. It is expected to be released in 2019.

“That was definitely a first to have filming here,” said Jeff Young, owner of Elmira Bowl. “It was a good experience. I guess you always worry about stuff that could happen, like damaged property, or sometimes you hear stories about actors or actresses being prima donnas, but everybody was fantastic. It was an enjoyable experience for us.”

Construction crews arrived on September 11 to give the building a grungier look.

“It’s supposed to look like an abandoned bowling alley,” explained Matt Peter, a carpenter who worked on the project. “We basically built all the trussing up, the letters, the legs; we covered the sign with sheet metal.”

“They changed the whole outside,” added Young. “They added a bunch of things: a 16-foot metal bowling pin on the roof, an eight-foot bowling ball, as well, and a brick wall that came out of the building to hold the pin up in the air.

They basically built over the siding we have by the front entrance, and put these big four-foot-high letters that said ‘Bowl-A-Drome’ on it. So they changed the name of the building. Then they obviously made it look really dirty-looking and abandoned.”

Shooting for the scenes took place last Friday night, and only featured the outside of the bowling alley.

“They were here for a full night shooting,” said Peter. “We were here for basically a week doing the setup.”

Elmira Bowl was forced to close for a few days to accommodate film crews, but Young was satisfied with the experience.

“We were still able to make things work,” said Young. “They were really easy to work with, the location manager and his staff. So we were able to stay open on weekends – they were doing setup and made sure they went around what we had going on.

“On Monday, there was the teardown of the set. They made sure they kept everything clear; we had a 55+ league that came in Monday afternoon, and they made sure for them to park, and stayed out of their way so they could get in and out of the building.”

Other filming locations for the movie include an old church on a rural road set in Perth South, as well as another bowling alley in Toronto for inside shots.

“The place they went to in Toronto, it’s been closed for quite a few years,” said Young. “They chose this location because they were looking for a small-town bowling alley for the outside.”

But how did the idea to shoot here for the project come to be?

“They found us on Google,” said Young with a laugh. “We were actually closed while doing renovations, so they got in contact with Frey’s Flowers next door, and they brought a note over asking for us to call them. It was a little strange.”

In the Tall Grass is a horror film where a brother and sister investigate screams emanating from a vast field of grass in Kansas and soon realize there may be no way out. The 2012 novella was written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill.