20 Years ago today, June 23, 1989, Tim Burton’s first Batman film with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson was released in theaters.
The release of this movie in 1989 was an event not seen probably since the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983. The merchandising and hype leading up to this movie was at near-Star Wars levels. There were daily news stories, TV specials, t-shirts, hats, posters, toys, product tie-ins etc. The bat signal was seen everywhere. People were talking about missing work to see it opening day.
I totally bought into the Batman hype that summer; hook, line and sinker. I was so excited I bought the movie novelization and read it before I saw the movie. I still have that novel as well as every other Batman movie novelization after it.
A Batman movie had been in development in some form or another since the late ’70s. Superman co-writer Tom Mankiewicz wrote a first draft of what would become the modern Batman movie in 1980. After the success of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, Warner Bros asked Tim Burton to take over the Batman movie development. Burton threw out Mankiewicz’s draft, wrote his own 30 page treatment and hired Sam Hamm to write the script. However, due to a writer’s strike in the late ’80s, development dragged on and Sam Hamm had to leave the project. Warren Skaaren was hired to finish the script. The final script was green-lit in 1988 after the success of Beetlejuice at the box office.
The Batman movie development went through many iterations before finally landing on the final script and cast; Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Bassinger. Here’s some behind the scene trivia for the movie: