The pinball machines in The Plaza Tavern on Henry Street don't take care of themselves, nor have they always been there.
The vitality of this form of interactive mechanical entertainment ebbs and flows like all diversions of generations past, sustained by a small, committed group of enthusiasts. This community is the focus of Ball Saved, a short documentary by Chicago-based student filmmaker Ben Olson, one that introduces viewers to pinball preservation.
There have been two flowerings of the pastime over the last thirty years, the first in the late '70s and the second in the early '90s. A UW graduate featured in this Wisconsin's Own entrant reminisces about playing pinball at Burgerworld, a long-gone arcade located on State Street.
The rise of next generation arcade games in the mid-90s, though, particularly in the form of cost-efficient hunting and shooter titles spelled trouble for pinball. Today, the industry is essentially limited to a single Chicago-based company, a city that has long been the cultural and business hub of the pastime.
The pinball enthusiasts interviewed in Ball Saved foresee a contained future for the game, one in which a small group of collectors keep its spirit alive.
Ball Saved was coupled with Sportsfan in a dual documentary screening at Monona Terrace, the third pair in a sextet of films screened there Friday night.