March 07, 2011 5:10am PT by Matthew Belloni
Universal, Sony Hit With Accounting Lawsuit Over 'Smokey and the Bandit' (Exclusive)
A producer of the classic comedy Smokey and the Bandit has sued Universal and Sony claiming he’s owed his share of the film’s net profits and is being denied the right to audit the studios’ books.
Mort Engelberg and his production company claim in a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court that Universal, which released Bandit in 1977, and Sony, which later acquired Rastar, the production company that made it, are obligated to account to him and pay 50% of “net profits” on the film, its 1980 sequel and another movie, the 1979 Dom DeLuise comedy Hot Stuff.
Engelberg claims his original deal with Rastar entitles him to audit his profit participation statements but his requests have been refused. The lawsuit seeks to open the books and “once this relief is obtained, Plaintiffs will amend this complaint to seek damages to the extent money is determined to be owed by the audits,” the lawsuit states.
The original Smokey, starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field, grossed an amazing $127 million in 1977 and spawned a sequel that grossed $66 million. (A third Smokey, released in 1983, grossed only $5 million and is not part of the lawsuit.).
The suit, filed by Neville Johnson of LA's Johnson & Johnson, alleges causes of action for breach of contract and breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, as well as declaratory relief, unjust enrichment and an accounting.
We’ve reached out to Universal and Sony for comment.