Smokey and the Bandit is a story about fast cars, the love shared between a man and a woman, and an $80,000 bet to haul 440 cases of Coors beer from Texas (where it was legal), to Georgia (where it wasn’t legal), in under 28 hours. On this day, back on May 19th, 1977, Smokey and the Bandit, starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason, Jerry Reed, and America’s sweetheart, Sally Field, premiered at New York City’s Radio Music Hall.
At first, the movie couldn’t find an audience in NYC, and had such a poor opening that Universal was going to pull the plug on it’s theatrical release. Before they did, Hal Needham, the director and writer of the movie, said to the executives at Universal as quoted from insideline.com, “I made this movie for the South, Midwest and Northwest, basically. So why don’t we take the damn thing somewhere where it was made for?” So Universal Studios made the right decision and listened to him, releasing the movie in the areas he recommended. Smokey and the Bandit ended up being the second highest-grossing movie in 1977, behind a little art house picture called, Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
From it’s box-office success, it spawned two theatrical sequels, Smokey and the Bandit II and Smokey and the Bandit 3, and four made for TV movies: Bandit Goes Country, Bandit Bandit, Beauty and the Bandit, and Bandit’s Silver Angel. The theme song, “Eastbound and Down,” written and performed by Jerry Reed, became a number two hit on the music charts. The popularity of the movie was responsible for doubling the sales of the Pontiac Trans Am between 1977 and 1979. It was also the reason why the price for mustache rides increased from 2 cents to 5 cents.
Smokey and the Bandit is more than just a 96 minute action/comedy/crime movie. It’s a valuable life-lesson teaching it’s viewers that you should always do what they say can’t be done, even IF you have a long way to go, AND a short time to get there. To that, we raise our premium Coors beer to the Bandit.