This is an amazing story that you would swear was written by the Joel & Ethan Coen brothers themselves.
The Big Lebowski has become such an iconic piece of pop culture. It’s one of those films that you watch once, say “That movie kinda sucked!” but then find yourself quoting John Goodman’s Walter Sobchak repeatedly for the next week and a half. Before you realize what happened, you’ve watched the movie a dozen times…sometimes even while sober.
If you see a Big Lebowski pinball game in a bowling alley arcade, take a picture with it. And then try to scalp it off the owner because it is suddenly worth a small fortune!
The pinball game itself is something of an engineering marvel. So much of the movie’s characters, one-liners and themes have been creatively encompassed into the game. Complete with a rug that rolls back with each ball strike to reveal a hidden trap door, a fully functioning bowling alley and, of course, the dude’s car.
There is even an actual runner that shipped with the game to tie the room together!
But all that is not what makes the Big Lebowski on of the most sought after arcade collector items…
“New $#!T has come to light.”
It took Dutch Pinball of the Netherlands nearly three years to bring this pinball game to market. They fought through licensing issues, design delays and renegotiations with production vendors (most notably ARA) attempting to fill their limited edition 300 promised purchase orders.
However on March 25th, 2017, Dutch Pinball emailed the 300 people with outstanding deposits that they have CEASED production and will NOT be filling their remaining backorders due to a dispute with their their chief vendor ARA. Higher than anticipated production cost, devaluation of the Euro and other factors are believed to be the source of the dispute.
It is believed that of the 300 units ordered, ONLY 36 HAVE ACTUALLY SHIPPED!
3 dozen shipped globally is an incredibly low amount of pinball machines making The Big Lebowski one of the scarcest (non-prototype) pinball machines ever!
Mint condition pinball machines are extremely rare and sell for a premium at hotly contested auctions because pinball machines commonly get severely beat up and abused at bars, bowling alleys and arcades.
Of the 36 units shipped, it is unknown how many are in the wild (arcades, bowling alleys, pubs…) vs. private residences, but one thing you could bet Donnie’s life on: The Big Lebowski just became one of the most sought after pinball machines in the world.
Now ARA does have 40 units available for shipment (per the Dutch Pinball email) which could possibly come to market someday. However even if this does unlikely happen, depending on legal proceedings between the two companies, it won’t happen anytime soon.
For Dutch Pinball’s sake, I hope they figure something out. There is a ton of upfront R & D cost involved in designing, coding, building & prototyping a pinball game that cannot be recouped on the sale of just three dozen units.
Pinball News has an in depth article from last year about the level of development & sophistication put into the production of the Big Lebowski pinball machine here. Real fascinating.
Sidenote: I really want to see the Coen Brothers put together a heist movie where somebody steals this rare pinball machine and holds it for ransom.
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Nobody watched that movie and thought, ‘that kind of sucked!’