History, Legacy & Showmanship

Loveable Losers: Remembering “The Bad News Bears” on its 40th Anniversary

April 7, 2016 - 1:56 pm   |   by
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“The coach is waiting for his next beer. The pitcher is waiting for her first bra. The team is waiting for a miracle. Consider the possibilities.”

The Digital Bits and History, Legacy & Showmanship are pleased to present this retrospective article commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of The Bad News Bears, Michael Ritchie’s popular and franchise-inspiring baseball comedy starring Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal. (Hey, Paramount! Where’s the Blu-ray??!!)  [Read on here...]

The Bad News Bears, from Bill Lancaster’s WGA-winning screenplay about a Southern California Little League team comprised of an alcoholic coach, a female pitcher, and “a bunch of jews, sp*cs, ni**ers, pansies, and a booger-eating moron,” opened 40 years ago this week, and for the occasion The Bits features a compilation of box-office data that places the movie’s performance in context, a collection of noteworthy passages from vintage film reviews, a list of the theaters that played the movie upon its initial release, and, finally, an interview segment with baseball authority and Walter Matthau biographer Rob Edelman.

Bad News Bears team photo



  • 3 = Rank among top-earning movies during opening weekend
  • 4 = Number of sequels, remakes and spin-offs
  • 4 = Rank on list of top box-office earners of 1976 (calendar year)
  • 9 = Rank on list of top box-office earners of 1976 (legacy)
  • 27 = Number of weeks of longest-running engagement
  • 47 = Rank on all-time list of top box-office earners at close of original release
  • 459 = Number of opening-week engagements
  • $2.4 million = Opening-weekend box-office gross
  • $9.0 million = Production cost
  • $22.3 million = Box-office rental (domestic, 1976 calendar year)
  • $24.9 million = Box-office rental (domestic, through 1979)
  • $37.5 million = Production cost (adjusted for inflation)
  • $42.3 million = Box-office gross (domestic)
  • $176.5 million = Box-office gross (domestic, adjusted for inflation)



“The year’s funniest movie!” — Jay Cocks, Time

The Bad News Bears is the funniest adult-child comedy film since Paper Moon, and should do just as well for Paramount. Walter Matthau stars to perfection as a bumbling baseball coach in the sharp Stanley R. Jaffe production about the foibles and follies of little-league athletics. Tatum O’Neal also stars as Matthau’s ace pitcher. Michael Ritchie’s film has the correct balance of warmth and empathy to make the gentle social commentary far more effective than in his Smile of a year ago. This is home run b.o. material.” — A.D. Murphy, Variety

The Bad News Bears is what a good Disney comedy might look like today if the Disney studios hadn’t lost the knack long ago.” — John Hartl, The Seattle Times

“The sad fact is that [The Bad News Bears] is unbearable since it fails on [every] level, creating a final product that’s as spotty as a fireman’s dog.” — Ken Williams, (Hamilton, OH) Journal News

“Because of its humor and care, Bad News Bears is really good news.” — Susan Stark, Detroit Free Press

“For pure, nutty escapism, don’t miss The Bad News Bears.” — Rex Reed, New York Daily News

“One of Matthau’s funniest performances and Tatum O’Neal is dazzling!” — John Simon, New York Magazine

“Nowhere does The Bad News Bears strike us with the fresh insight, the original perspective, or the new sympathy that movies, comic or otherwise, must have to make them worth our while.” — Joy Gould Boyum, The Wall Street Journal

“Run, run, run to The Bad News Bears. You’ll be making an error if you skip this movie!” — Gene Shalit, WNBC-TV

The Bad News Bears is cloyingly precocious, feisty and foul-mouthed…. The Bad News Bears is still an enjoyable movie, mostly because of the delightful performance of Walter Matthau.” — Bill Hagen, Copley News Service

“If Neil Simon ever wrote a kiddie comedy, it might very well sound like Michael Ritchie’s The Bad News Bears.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“Despite all its home-run potential, Bad News Bears is a long fly ball that finally drifts foul.” — Maureen Orth, Newsweek

“Funny and sweet!” — Liz Smith, Cosmopolitan

“A good, clean hit!” — Frank Rich, New York Post

“Unbeatable as all-around satisfying entertainment!” — Judith Crist, Saturday Review

The Bad News Bears isn’t up to the standard of [Michael Ritchie’s] Smile. Its characters are more types than people. But Ritchie manages to work some magic through his use of music and through his manipulation of the film’s uncertain ending…. The kids themselves are exaggerated brats. They talk like standup comics working a Dean Martin roast. Their foul-mouth dialog is overdone…. In sum, The Bad News Bears is a better comedy about Little League baseball than you’d expect from anyone but talented Michael Ritchie.” — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune

“Michael Ritchie’s The Bad News Bears is intended as a comedy, and there are, to be sure, a lot of laughs in it. But it’s something more, something deeper, than what it first appears to be. It’s an unblinking, scathing look at competition in American society—and because the competitors in this case are Little Leaguers, the movie has passages that are very disturbing.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Bad News Bears (film print)“Ritchie deflates the pretensions of a sacrosanct piece of Americana without draining away any of the fun.” — Richard Cuskelly, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner

“While no way related to the Disney definition of a wholesome family picture, Bad News Bears is ultimately a sentimental ode to the spirit of good sportsmanship, or maybe a blow to kids’ lib. But how many message movies have Matthau on deck to guarantee a grand-slammer?” — Playboy

“What should have been family fare is more suited for adults, especially regarding the language used by both adolescents and grownups. Since many regard obscenities as objectionable as sex or violence on the screen, the Paramount release may run into difficulty.” — Boxoffice

“Ritchie’s cynicism finds its most deserving target in the little league parents—the fathers who care more about a team victory than their children’s stability. But the film’s sharpness on this point throws the movie out of focus. It’s like finding a bitter tonic in the middle of a tasty cream puff…. Although the plot recalls the early 1930s comedies, the dialogue is pure 1976. For once, onscreen contemporary kids sound just like offscreen contemporary kids.” — Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News

The Bad News Bears is a lovely, spontaneously funny entertainment. [T]he presence of Walter Matthau and Tatum O’Neal at the head of the cast may help to attract a mass audience that never heard about [Ritchie’s] Smile…. [T]he comedy scenes are so expert and the interplay between Matthau and the juveniles is so uninhibited and amusing that the picture looks virtually certain of wide, well-earned popular appeal.” — Gary Arnold, The Washington Post

The Bad News Bears is nothing but good news. It’s the best American screen comedy of the year to date.” — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

“Purely as a hip kiddie comedy about life in the little leagues, The Bad News Bears is amiable, easily digestible diversion. But unfortunately it haplessly aspires to be something more: a mildly caustic comment on our costly obsession with winning. Elsewhere, a skillful satirist of this particular form of American madness (in Smile and The Candidate), here director Michael Ritchie merely seems dutifully ideological. The message is tacked on, not woven, into the movie and, what’s more, it’s not really justified by the action. Part of the fault lies in Bill Lancaster’s indecisively conceived, unevenly written and thickly padded script.” — John Koch, Boston Herald American

The Bad News Bears suggests the title of a Disney movie. But Michael Ritchie’s film of that name might be rated ‘X’ by Disney standards…. Ritchie took risks with this one—baseball, kids, the un-Disney honesty of true junior high school dialogue—and won. I think it is the best of his five feature films to date.” — William Hogan, San Francisco Chronicle

“It is simply a very fine movie that would be a great deal of fun for persons of all ages. It has enough intelligent comment to keep adults interested and enough wild humor to keep children of all ages roaring with laughter.” — Mike Petryni, The (Phoenix) Arizona Republic

“[The Bad News Bears] has an exploding sense of life and joyful, jubilant sense of self that’s absent from far too many films…. Bad News Bears recalls with joy when baseball was a sport, not a business. It remembers when sandlot baseball was played by kids for their own delight, not for their parents’ ego-tripping. When the idea was sportsmanship, not gamesmanship. It recollects when baseball was a reflection of the kind of game life should be instead of a warring simulation of the mechanism it’s becoming. That’s as joyful as it is romantic.” — Tom McElfresh, The Cincinnati Enquirer



A distribution overview…. The Bad News Bears was sneak-previewed in several markets on April 2nd, 1976. The movie’s world premiere was held at Plitt’s Century Plaza in Los Angeles on April 4th as the closing night screening of FILMEX ’76. Paramount booked over 400 prints of the film for the initial release wave in North America, a huge sum for the company at the time. The opening-week bookings were held over the course of four days, depending on the opening-day preference of each exhibitor, and these have been cited below, alphabetized by U.S. state and Canadian province. Two theaters in Manhattan opened the movie on Tuesday, April 6th. The Wednesday, April 7th openings have been cited with a single asterisk. The double-asterisk entries opened Thursday, April 8th, and the triple-asterisk entries opened Friday, April 9th. The thousands of bookings that commenced during the subsequent weeks and months (including move-over extensions and international engagements) have not been listed in this work. The length of engagement, measured in weeks, has been provided for selected entries to give a sense of the movie’s popularity.

Mann's Chinese Theater


  • Bessemer — ABC Southeastern’s Bessemer Twin*** (8)
  • Birmingham — ABC Southeastern’s Roebuck Plaza*** (8)
  • Huntsville — Martin’s Westbury Cinerama*** (10)
  • Mobile — ABC Southeastern’s Airport Twin*** (11)
  • Montgomery — Martin’s Governor’s Square Twin*** (12)
  • Muscle Shoals — Martin’s Cinema Twin*** (5)
  • Tuscaloosa — ABC Southeastern’s Fox Twin*** (5)


No theaters in Alaska played The Bad News Bears during Release Wave #1


  • Calgary — Famous Players’ Palliser Square Twin*** (23)
  • Edmonton — Famous Players’ Capitol Square 4-plex*** (7)
  • Edmonton — Famous Players’ Westmount Twin*** (24)


  • Phoenix — General Cinema Corporation’s Thomas Mall*** (6)
  • Tucson — Mann’s Buena Vista Twin*** (11)


  • Fort Smith — American Multi-Cinema’s Phoenix Village Twin*
  • Jonesboro — Malco’s Trio Triplex***
  • Little Rock — United Artists’ Cinema City 4-plex*** (12)
  • North Little Rock — General Cinema Corporation’s McCain Mall Twin*** (6)


  • Burnaby — Famous Players’ Lougheed Mall Triplex*** (26)
  • West Vancouver — Famous Players’ Park Royal Twin*** (9)


  • Bruin theater adBakersfield — General Cinema Corporation’s Valley Plaza* (7)
  • Berkeley — Blumenfeld/Cinerama’s Oaks Twin* (6)
  • Capitola — Kindair’s 41st Avenue Playhouse Triplex* (11)
  • Citrus Heights — Mann’s Birdcage Walk Triplex*** (24)
  • Concord — General Cinema Corporation’s Sun Valley* (9)
  • Daly City — Plitt’s Serramonte Plaza Twin* (10)
  • El Monte — Pacific’s Starlite Drive-In* (11)
  • Eureka — Redwood’s State Triplex*** (6)
  • Fountain Valley — Pacific’s Fountain Valley Drive-In* (12)
  • Fresno — General Cinema Corporation’s Manchester Mall* (10)
  • Hayward — General Cinema Corporation’s Southland Twin* (9)
  • Los Angeles (Hollywood) — Mann’s Chinese* (11)
  • Los Angeles (Westwood Village) — Mann’s National* (11)
  • Menlo Park — West Side Valley’s Park* (9)
  • Napa — Blumenfeld’s Uptown Twin* (4)
  • Newport Beach — Edwards’ Newport Twin* (11)
  • Oakland — Foster’s Parkway Twin* (11)
  • Orange — Syufy’s Cinedome 4-plex* (12)
  • Palm Desert — Metropolitan’s Palms to Pines Triplex* (15)
  • Sacramento — Syufy’s Century 24* (11)
  • Salinas — Kindair’s Northridge 4-plex* (12)
  • San Diego — Mann’s Cinema 21* (11)
  • San Francisco — Blumenfeld’s Regency II* (10)
  • San Jose — Syufy’s Century 24 Twin* (11)
  • San Mateo — General Cinema Corporation’s Hillsdale Center Twin* (9)
  • San Rafael — Blumenfeld/Cinerama’s Northgate* (10)
  • Santa Barbara — Metropolitan’s Granada* (6)
  • Sonoma — Redwood’s Coddingtown Triplex* (7)
  • Stockton — General Cinema Corporation’s Sherwood Plaza Twin* (9)
  • Vallejo — Syufy’s Cine 21 Triplex* (5)
  • Visalia — Mann’s Fox* (5)


  • Boulder — Mann’s Fox*** (8)
  • Colorado Springs — General Cinema Corporation’s Citadel Twin*** (12)
  • Denver — Mann’s Century 21* (16)
  • Fort Collins — Mann’s Fox*** (6)
  • Greeley — Cooper-Highland’s Wilshire Twin*** (7)
  • Pueblo — American Multi-Cinema’s Southside 4-plex*** (11)


  • Bridgeport — Perakos’ Beverly* (5)
  • Danbury — RKO Stanley-Warner’s Cinema* (5)
  • East Hartford — Redstone’s Showcase 4-plex* (9)
  • Orange — Redstone’s Showcase 5-plex* (7)
  • Stamford — Trans-Lux’s Avon* (7)
  • Waterbury — General Cinema Corporation’s Naugatuck Valley Mall Triplex* (11)
  • Westport — Nutmeg’s Fine Arts Triplex* (9)


  • Wilmington — Budco’s Concord Mall* (12)


  • Washington — General Cinema Corporation’s Jenifer Twin* (11)


  • Bay Harbor Islands — Loews’ Bay Harbor*** (11)
  • Bradenton — General Cinema Corporation’s Bayshore Twin*** (7)
  • Casselberry — General Cinema Corporation’s Seminole*** (8)
  • Clearwater — ABC Florida State’s Capitol*** (7)
  • Coral Gables — General Cinema Corporation’s Riviera Twin*** (11)
  • Daytona Beach — General Cinema Corporation’s Bellair Plaza Twin*** (10)
  • Deerfield Beach — ABC Florida State’s Ultravision Twin*** (7)
  • Fort Lauderdale — General Cinema Corporation’s Sunrise Twin*** (11)
  • Fort Walton Beach — Martin’s Brooks Plaza Triplex*** (8)
  • Gainesville — Eastern Federal’s Royal Park 4-plex*** (11)
  • Hollywood — General Cinema Corporation’s Hollywood*** (11)
  • Jacksonville — General Cinema Corporation’s Expressway Mall Twin*** (9)
  • Jacksonville — Mandell’s 5 Points*** (11)
  • Kendall — Loews’ Kendall Mall Twin*** (12)
  • Lakeland — General Cinema Corporation’s Imperial Mall Twin*** (6)
  • Merritt Island — General Cinema Corporation’s Merritt Twin***
  • Miami — General Cinema Corporation’s Westchester Twin*** (9)
  • North Miami Beach — Loews’ 167th Street Twin*** (12)
  • Ocala — Wometco’s Ocala Twin*** (5)
  • Orlando — ABC Florida State’s Plaza Twin*** (7)
  • Pensacola — ABC Southeastern’s Plaza Twin*** (8)
  • Plantation — ABC Florida State’s Plantation*** (6)
  • St. Petersburg — ABC Florida State’s Plaza Twin*** (7)
  • St. Petersburg — General Cinema Corporation’s Gateway*** (4)
  • Sarasota — ABC Florida State’s Plaza Twin*** (4)
  • Tampa — General Cinema Corporation’s Austin Twin*** (11)
  • Tampa — General Cinema Corporation’s University Square Mall 4-plex*** (12)
  • West Palm Beach — ABC Florida State’s Plaza Twin*** (8)


  • Atlanta — General Cinema Corporation’s Perimeter Mall Triplex*
  • Atlanta — Loews’ Tara Twin*
  • Augusta — Weis’ Cinema Centre Twin*** (11)
  • Columbus — Martin’s Peachtree Twin*** (9)
  • Decatur — Eastern Federal’s Belvedere* (7)
  • Fort Oglethorpe — Martin’s Southgate Twin***
  • Jonesboro — Weis’ Arrowhead Triplex*
  • Macon — Weis’ Cinema Centre Triplex***
  • Savannah — Weis’ Cinema Centre Triplex***
  • Smyrna — Eastern Federal’s Miracle***


  • Honolulu — Royal’s Marina Twin* (19)


No theaters in Idaho played The Bad News Bears during Release Wave #1


  • Aurora — L&M’s Isle*** (4)
  • Belleville — Bloomer Amusement Company’s Cinema*** (5)
  • Bloomington — General Cinema Corporation’s Eastland Triplex***
  • Calumet City — Plitt’s River Oaks Triplex*** (11)
  • Carbondale — Kerasotes’ Saluki Twin*** (5)
  • Champaign — Kerasotes’ Orpheum** (10)
  • Chicago — Playboy*** (6)
  • Decatur — Kerasotes’ Lincoln*** (5)
  • Joliet — General Cinema Corporation’s Jefferson Square Triplex*** (10)
  • Lombard — General Cinema Corporation’s Yorktown Twin*** (11)
  • Milan — Redstone’s Showcase 6-plex* (11)
  • Norridge — Marks & Rosenfield’s Norridge Triplex*** (11)
  • Oak Lawn — Lucas’ Coral*** (11)
  • Peoria — Kerasotes’ Beverly*** (9)
  • Rockford — Kerasotes’ State*** (6)
  • Schaumburg — Plitt’s Woodfield Twin*** (11)
  • Skokie — Marks & Rosenfield’s Old Orchard Twin*** (11)
  • Springfield — Kerasotes’ Esquire Triplex** (12)
  • Waukegan — General Cinema Corporation’s Lakehurst Triplex*** (9)


  • Columbus — General Cinema Corporation’s Courthouse Twin*** (5)
  • Elkhart — Kerasotes’ Concord Mall Twin*** (7)
  • Evansville — CinemaNational’s Washington Square Twin*** (20)
  • Fort Wayne — General Cinema Corporation’s Southtown Mall Twin***
  • Fort Wayne — Mallers-Spirou’s Holiday Twin***
  • Gary — General Cinema Corporation’s Ridge Plaza Twin*** (7)
  • Greenwood — General Cinema Corporation’s Greenwood Triplex*** (12)
  • Indianapolis — General Cinema Corporation’s Lafayette Square*** (9)
  • Indianapolis — Loews’ Norgate Twin*** (6)
  • Kokomo — General Cinema Corporation’s Kokomo Mall Triplex***
  • Lafayette — United Artists’ Market Square Twin*** (9+)
  • Michigan City — General Cinema Corporation’s Dunes Plaza 4-plex***
  • Muncie — General Cinema Corporation’s Northwest Plaza Twin***
  • South Bend — River Park***
  • Terre Haute — General Cinema Corporation’s Honey Creek Square Twin*** (10)


  • Ames — Central States’ Ames** (2)
  • Cedar Falls — Central States’ College Square Twin** (7)
  • Cedar Rapids — Dubinsky’s World*** (7)
  • Des Moines — Dubinsky’s Riviera* (10)
  • Dubuque — Dubuque Theatre Corporation’s Cinema Center Triplex* (7)
  • Iowa City — Central States’ Mall Twin** (5)
  • Mason City — Central States’ Park 70*** (4)
  • Sioux City — Dubinsky’s Orpheum*** (6)


  • Lawrence — Commonwealth’s Hillcrest Triplex* (6)
  • Manhattan — Commonwealth’s West Loop Twin* (4)
  • Overland Park — Guy-Con’s Valley View Twin* (#1: 27)
  • Overland Park — Guy-Con’s Valley View Twin* (#2: 14)
  • Salina — Dickinson’s Mid-State Twin*** (5)
  • Topeka — American Multi-Cinema’s Gage 4-plex* (11)
  • Wichita — Commonwealth’s Twin Lakes Twin* (23)

Bad News Bears (scene from the film)

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