With 23 superhero movies planned for the next four years or so, it might be hard to understand that in 1989, the prospect of one comic book movie was causing some concern on a big studio lot. Tim Burton‘s “Batman” hit theaters on June 23, 1989, but even as filming had barely started, Warner Bros. were concerned. The character had a long legacy, one largely associated (at least in the mainstream public’s view) with the campy TV show starring Adam West, and they were eager to assuage film distributors that this would be something much different. And so, Andrew Gillman was tasked with cutting together a 20-minute industry promo that would explain the character’s history and what this new film version would be all about.
“Warner Brothers had found themselves in a very difficult situation at the time. The marketing director at Warner told me that Adam West had been going to various media outlets stating that he should be Batman, that his Batman was the only true Batman, and that this dark thing that Warner was doing had nothing to do with Batman at all. This caused a problem for Warner Brothers because it created doubts in the minds of the film distributors and merchandisers around the world,” Gillman told 1989 Batman.
“Since the longer lead time involved in both merchandise production and film distribution requires a gamble on how a film will look in its finished form, Warner needed to create something to reassure these investors that Tim Burton’s vision for movie was going to work, that this movie was going to be successful,” Gillman continued. “They needed to show them that Adam West’s statements were inaccurate, and that the film would present a version of Batman truer to the comic than the campy, comedic TV show of the 60’s. The opening sequence of the preview film has very specific references to clue-in these investors that the film was returning to Batman’s true heritage, with the West TV show being addressed as merely a footnote in the overall history. In fact, this film would be the vaccination of the Adam West Batman- returning to the character all the wonder of the original comics. So this whole opening statement is basically an assurance to the viewer that Warner is presenting you with the ‘real’ Batman now.”
The resulting video (via Cinetropolis) is a pretty fascinating look at how Warner Bros. was eager to redefine the character for a new generation, and the effort that they went to convince anyone with a financial stake that this was worth banking on. The result? Of all the Batman movies made at WB so far, Tim Burton’s film is third-highest grossing of all time, even beating out Christopher Nolan‘s rebooted “Batman Begins.” Check out the promo below.