Where was Kingpin filmed?
Mars, PA; Rochester, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Reno, NV; Webster, NY; Trafford, PA
American, NatureScapes, Gyms/Sports, Hotel/Motel, Warehouse
Desert, Hotel/Motel Style, Industrial, Resort, Rustic, Seedy, Studio
The movie Kingpin was released in 1996 and features a star-studded cast of Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, and Bill Murray as an unexpected group of men chasing bowling glory and fighting off their own demons. The film was directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. This team of brothers had previously directed Dumb and Dumber, so expectations were high. Kingpin production used several locations that created the authenticity the Farrelly brothers were looking for.
Spoiler alert, the rest of this article provides scene information on some of the best twists and turns in the movie. You may want to watch it first, however, there are so many moments in the film, that there will still be a few surprises.
Kingpin tells the story of Roy Munson (Harrelson), a young man who once had a bright future as a professional bowler. He lost his hand after trying to hustle a tough group of bowlers at a local alley with Ernie McCracken, another professional, and then sinks into a decade-long tailspin. He gets a prosthetic hand and becomes a traveling salesman, but he’s not that into it and certainly not very good at it. Roy is living in a seedy boarding house and struggling to pay his rent. Overall, things aren’t looking good.
Then, he stops at a local bowling alley one day and meets Ishmael Boorg, a young Amish man and talented bowler. Roy wants to take Ishmael professionally and serve as his agent. The only problem is that Ishmael technically isn’t allowed to bowl professionally because of his Amish religion. But the $1 million purse at an upcoming tournament in Reno convinces Ishmael to try since his family needs money for their farm.
The two set off on a road trip from Pennsylvania to Reno, where the tournament is being held. They have many mishaps along the way and add Claudia, a beautiful young woman to their group. Of course, we haven’t seen the last of Ernie McCracken either, as he resurfaces and forces Roy to confront the demons from his past and the promise of the future.
The movie is vulgar and tries too hard to be funny at times, yet it’s kept audiences engaged for decades as they laugh along with the character’s antics.
Kingpin locations include Ocelot, Iowa, where Roy grew up, the Pennsylvania town where he lives, and Reno, Nevada, where the $1 million jackpot bowling championship takes place. The Farrelly brothers used various locations in each of these states for these locations, although Pennsylvania and New York locations were used instead of Ohio, and for the various places that comprised his home area in Pennsylvania.
Almost all of the bowling alleys around Pittsburgh were used at some point in the film, as the main characters travel to different lanes for tournaments. A studio was also used to fill in a few gaps that the team needed for the film.
The world’s best bowler scene in Kingpin
2036 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA
Roy Munson was a boy, bowling outside his father’s service center, and learning the skills that will see him into his future. His father has high expectations of him as a bowler.
We next see Roy Munson in the opening scenes of the movie, when he’s riding high on his bowling success and budding reputation as the world’s best bowler. The Carrick Classic Lanes in Carrick, a section of Pittsburgh, were used for this Kingpin film scene.
It’s 1979, and Roy walks into the alley in a white suit, bouncing his head to the song Disco Inferno by The Trammps. He high fives people as he walks by them all, smiling, and nodding. At one point he grabs a slice of pizza from an onlooker and starts eating it, before tossing it on the table at his lane. Then, he shows off his championship ring before removing his jacket. Roy swings that around and then tosses it to one of the ladies.
A golden bowling ball is carefully pulled from its bag, and Roy easily lands a strike as “burn, baby, burn,” blasts through the background.
The warehouse scene in Kingpin
25 New York Ave, Rochester, PA
“People bowl here?” Roy asks Ernie as they enter a large building and start climbing the stairs. The stairs are a bit seedy and kind of frightening. It doesn’t have that bowling alley feel.
This is the young Roy, who feels like his rise to prominence as the world’s best bowler is now being stewarded by one of the sport’s greats. What he doesn’t realize, is that Ernie is leading him to a bowling alley where they will hustle a rough group of bowlers, it’s a moment that will change the trajectory of Roy’s life forever and set the stage for the rest of the movie. The next scene is where Roy is beat up when the other bowlers realize they’re being hustled, and then loses his bowling hand in the ball return chute.
This filming location of Kingpin was a real bowling alley at the time and was in fact located on the third floor of this large, industrial building. It was called Beaver Valley Bowl before it was closed but was popular from the 1950s to the 1980s. The location is along the Ohio River and is a landmark.
The scene where Ishmael is discovered scene in Kingpin
262 Mars Valencia Road, Mars, PA
Roy, as a traveling bowling salesman, is visiting a bowling alley, a pretty non-descript place that he’s not very impressed with. He says to the manager, “You call this a bowling alley,” before he hears someone hit a strike and turns around to look.
Roy walks up to a young Amish man and critiques his bowling style and form. The young Amish man says, “You can tell all that from just seeing me throw one strike?” Roy replies to him, “I didn’t see it, I heard it.”
The young man throws another strike after incorporating Roy’s advice and laughs, saying, “Will you look at that.”
Roy shows him his 1979 Iowa State Champion bowler ring, and the two introduce themselves. Roy wants to talk to him more, but Ishmael hurries out. The manager mentions that Roy is wasting his time because Ishmael is Amish, a fact that surprises Roy (despite the outfit).
The “we don’t have a cow” scene in Kingpin
Roy infiltrates the Amish community, dressing as an Amish person, in an attempt to convince Ishmael to let Roy be his manager and start competing in bowling tournaments. One of the funniest scenes in Kingpin is when Roy comes running up before they’re all supposed to head to a barn raising.
Ishmael and his family are all in the buggy, waiting to leave. A younger boy is standing in front of the buggy. Roy’s carrying a bucket of milk and sporting a milk mustache. He tells the family that he took the liberty of getting up early to milk their cow for them.
Roy says, “Yeah, it took a little while to get her warmed up, she sure is a stubborn one. Then POW, all at once.”
Mr. Boorg replies, “We don’t have a cow. We have a bull.”
Roy looks horrified and says, “I’ll brush my teeth.”
Next, the film goes into an aerial of the countryside, as everyone heads to a barn raising. Children are playing in the corn stalks, as everyone else works to get the barn raised.
The boyhood home scene in Kingpin
255 Mars Valencia Road, Mars, PA
“You know, it’s been 17 years since I showed my face around here,” Roy says to Claudia (played by Vanessa Angel) as they drive his car into Ocelot. He has a black eye from a recent fight, and she’s worried about Ishmael getting to Reno all by himself, since he doesn’t have many street smarts as a young, Amish man.
They drive by an abandoned restaurant, and Roy remembers going there as a child when it was P.J.’s Soft Serve. They sit on a giant tire outside his father’s service center, where his dad taught him to bowl on the side of it. Munson’s Service Center has been abandoned too, and he opens up to Vanessa about his childhood, and then goes on to say, “I got word he died about 10 years ago. I didn’t even have the nerve to come back for the funeral.”
Roy had been holding an old, worn-out bowling pin while he talked to Claudia about his past. He throws down the pocket watch his father had given him, earlier he mentioned that he could never get it to work, and says, “Come on, let’s go find that kid.” The pair head off to find Ishmael and make sure he gets to Reno safely.
The championship scene in Kingpin
National Bowling Center, Reno, NV
“Let’s get ready to bowl,” the announcer declares, as sporty music plays in the background, strobe lights circulate through the room and the crowd cheers. This is the championship bowling scene, and it all comes down to Roy bowling against McCracken to determine the winner. Disco Inferno is once again playing in the background. Roy grabs a piece of pizza from a spectator again, but this time it’s taken away from him by the spectator.
Roy has a casualty early in the scene, as he and Ernie walk in to the cheers of the crowd, he trips and falls over the ball return. Ernie, meanwhile, is all confident and “panache” as the announcers say. A fun fact is that one of the announcers in the scene was an actual ESPN sports announcer from New England at the time Kingpin was produced. The other was John Popper, singer for the band Blues Traveler. The entire band reappears at the end of the movie, this time in Amish outfits, and plays, But Anyway, one of their songs.
Ernie bowls first and lands a strike with his custom-made bowling ball, it’s clear with a rose in the middle. Roy steps up to bowl and places his golden ball on his prosthetic hand, but then a woman runs up yelling “time out, time out,” and gives him a kiss. Roy also lands a strike. The scene ends with Ernie winning by one pin.
Kingpin had a lackluster start at the box office when it debuted in 1996, in part because it was released during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But, when it came out on video, there was a stronger surge in interest and viewers. The best scenes in Kingpin are the bowling scenes as the personalities of both Woody Harrelson (Roy) and Bill Murray (Ernie) come out, and the humor and jokes roll. True to form, Bill Murray made up most of his lines as they were filming, after reading the script and getting a general idea.
The film is still rated as one of Harrelson’s funniest and remains on several others lists of humorous films. It’s popular with sports fans because of the cameo that baseball pitcher Roger Clemens has in a restaurant scene, and bowling fans appreciated the appearance of three professional bowlers in various scenes leading up to the national tournament. A couple of PGA players also make appearances, as the Farrelly brothers once again use their sports friends, especially those from New England teams, in a film.
The Farrelly brothers liberally used different locations, especially all the bowling alleys in and around Pittsburgh and the National Bowling Center in Reno to make the film shoots as authentic as possible. The people in the back row of the stands at the bowling national championship were cardboard cutouts, but the bowling location itself, was all real, and that’s what mattered most.
In the end, Roy may have lost the bowling championship, but he won in life. He got an endorsement deal and was able to pay off the debts on Ishmael’s family farm. He also ended up with Claudia and stopped drinking. We can assume that the next chapter of Roy’s life was much better, and hopefully equally funny.