Today marks the 25th anniversary of what was the much-anticipated theatrical release of Tim Burton‘s original Batman. The film was one of the biggest box office hits of all time when it conquered the summer of 1989 and left its considerable competition eating enough dust to choke Yog-Sothoth, but in the months prior to Batman‘s big screen debut, executives harbored doubts that it could break through with audiences and make movies based on beloved comic books viable moneymakers. Plus, the longtime fans of the Dark Knight were concerned that Hollywood, long-convinced superhero movies were death at the ticket booths, was going to screw this one up royally.
We all know things worked out pretty well for all involved as Batman went on to obliterate every existing box office record and set a new standard for how comic book blockbusters were developed, produced, marketed, and above all respected from that moment forward. In late-1988 Warner Bros. looked many months ahead to the looming June 23, 1989 release date and realized the task of successfully selling this film to summertime movie-going crowds was going to be arduous and potentially a massive failure. They couldn’t afford to make a single misstep with what was going to be a very expensive advertising campaign.
First, the studio put together a teaser trailer for Batman that was released to thousands of theaters during the holiday movie season. The trailer was a rough assemblage of scenes from the film presented without music, credits, or even a title. This was done to assuage anxieties over the casting of Michael Keaton in the title role and the rumors that the tone of the movie was veering too close to the camp hilarity of the 1960’s television series. Warner Bros. also created a short promotional documentary with the same purpose, but this time done for the benefit of distributors and merchandisers who were counting on the film to fill their coffers with cold hard cash.
You can watch both videos here below.
The 20-minute documentary, which was directed by Andrew Gillman, was uploaded to YouTube by the website 1989Batman.com. You can check out more of their videos here.
It’s hard to imagine a time when Batman movies weren’t the biggest deal on the planet, unless you happen to live through the years before Burton stepped behind the camera for the first time to bring the Caped Crusader and his adventures defending Gotham City from the forces of evil on a scale never before thought possible. Nowadays, people complain constantly about the ceaseless glut of superhero flicks invading the multiplexes practically on a weekly basis. Things certainly have changed over the past 25 years.