Fans can help legacy of Burt Reynolds live on in South Florida

Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre 'one of the great loves of his life'

By Peter Burke - Managing Editor
Peter Burke/

Burt Reynolds on the red carpet at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino before the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival's opening night screening of "Dog Years," Nov. 3, 2017 in Hollywood, Florida.

NORTH PALM BEACH, Fla. - Burt Reynolds may be gone, but fans can help his legacy carry on.

The Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre is asking for donations to help future generations of South Florida thespians become the next Hollywood superstars.

"We are all suffering the loss of our mentor, teacher and friend today, but at the Institute, we are determined to keep Burt's memory alive and preserving his legacy for generations to come," managing director Donna Carbone said Friday in an email.

Reynolds died Thursday at Jupiter Medical Center. He was 82. 

The "Smokey and the Bandit" star grew up in Palm Beach County and taught acting classes at the North Palm Beach school in the days before his death.

Carbone called the Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre "one of the great loves of his life."

"We recently moved into a new space with a small black box theater, and Burt was ecstatic," Carbone said. "He was looking forward to producing some cutting-edge plays, which would set us apart from most other theaters."

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

"Burt's Kids," his student protégés, give actor Burt Reynolds their close attention in the classroom at his Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Florida, Nov. 12, 1980.

Once Hollywood's No. 1 box-office draw, Reynolds spent five years (1978 to 1982) attracting the world's audiences to movie theaters. He used his star power to stay close to home, routinely making movies south of the Mason-Dixon Line and attracting other A-list celebrities to South Florida during the height of his success.

He opened the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter in 1979 and recruited his famous friends -- Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Charles Durning, Carol Burnett and fellow Florida State University alumnus Robert Urich among them -- to perform there.

Reynolds ran the theater until 1989, but it remained in operation until financial problems forced its closure in 1996. Purchased by the nonprofit Palm Beach Playhouse Inc., it reopened as the Maltz Jupiter Theatre in 2004.

Jupiter was also the site of the now-shuttered Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum, which closed in 2012 to make way for the Harbourside Place development. Not far from where the museum once stood is Burt Reynolds Park.

Reynolds also owned a 160-acre ranch in nearby Jupiter Farms, where he married "WKRP in Cincinnati" actress Loni Anderson in 1988. The ranch also served as a location in his short-lived ABC series, "B.L. Stryker."

Associated Press

Burt Reynolds and his bride Loni Anderson wave to spectators in front of a stagecoach after their wedding, April 29, 1988 in a closely-guarded ceremony on the actor's 160-acre horse ranch west of Jupiter, Florida.

The Burt Reynolds Institute for Film & Theatre is collecting donations on its website.

All donations made to the nonprofit acting school are tax-deductible.

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