Happy 30th birthday, Superman!!!

posted by moviebuff82 on December 15, 2008 at 8:00 am

It was 30 years ago, on December 15, 1978, that the first full-length big budget superhero movie came out…“Superman The Movie”. Boasting an all-star cast lead by a newcomer named Christopher Reeve, state-of-the-art special effects, and an unforgettable score by John Williams, the $55 million movie would go on to make a profit for Warner Bros and produce not only sequels and spinoffs, but more superhero movies that continue to this day, as exemplified by the success of “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight”.

Comments (36)

markp on December 15, 2008 at 8:36 am

Yeah, but those movies were more enjoyable. They didn’t need all the computer graphics and bells and whistles todays movies need.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on December 15, 2008 at 9:39 am

I saw SUPERMAN-THE MOVIE shortly after it was released at the Squire Theater in Great Neck (I live there now). Of course, it was nothing short of spectacular! I have this vague memory before the feature starting of repeated images of the Superman ’S' logo and the title logo, “Superman-The Movie” consistently appearing on the screen while we all waited for the feature to start. Does this at all sound familiar to anyone else who saw the film when it was released?

PeterApruzzese on December 15, 2008 at 9:46 am

No. The movie starts with curtains opening on a short little 4x3 black & white sequence showing the comic book pages and then moves into a shot of the Daily Planet building. Then as the camera moves into space, the screen widens and the music comes up loud for the very long title sequence. For another 45 minutes or so, we’ve got a great movie. Then Clark Kent comes to Metropolis and we end up with a silly farce. ;)

Coate on December 15, 2008 at 10:02 am

“Superman” remains my favorite comic-book movie. I don’t think it has been or ever will be topped. The movie has a little bit of everything: epic story, humor, outstanding (at the time) visual effects, GREAT music score, fun elements for kids, and dialogue and situations that appeal to both kids and adults. “Superman” is one of three movies I can claim to have seen over 100 times!

I first saw “Superman” at the Northridge Mall in Salinas, California. In Spring 1979, I moved to Germany (Army brat…) and saw the movie again that year at our post theater, which was the first time I can recall staying for any film’s end credits just to listen to the music.

My favorite “Superman” memory may be the AAFES military theater circuit’s special double feature of “Superman” and “Superman II.”

Another fun memory was its network TV premiere broadcast (1982?) where it was expanded by several minutes and shown over two nights.

richjr37 on December 15, 2008 at 10:55 am

Hey,Michael! Was “Superman” ever in 70mm at the GCC(now AMC/Magic Johnson Theatres)Northline Mall? My mind seems to remember that it was but i’m not sure. Thanks.

William on December 15, 2008 at 11:07 am

I saw it on the BIG screen at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood in 70MM 6-Track Dolby Stereo. And that was the way to see this film on a Giant screen with Big sound.

Coate on December 15, 2008 at 11:14 am

I’m not sure. I only have a partial list of where the “Superman” 70mm prints were booked.

Belleville, IL â€" BAC CINEMA
Bloomington, MN â€" SOUTHTOWN
Boston, MA â€" CINEMA 57
Chicago, IL â€" ESQUIRE
Los Angeles, CA â€" CHINESE
Los Angeles, CA â€" NATIONAL
Los Angeles, CA â€" WARNER CENTER
New York, NY â€" ASTOR PLAZA
New York, NY â€" MURRAY HILL
New York, NY â€" ORPHEUM
Northbrook, IL â€" EDENS
Oak Brook, IL â€" OAKBROOK
San Diego, CA â€" CINEMA 21
San Francisco, CA â€" NORTHPOINT
San Jose, CA â€" TOWN & COUNTRY
Schaumburg, IL â€" WOODFIELD
Washington, DC â€" EMBASSY CIRCLE

raysson on December 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

In Durham,its exclusive showing at the Northgate Theatre(aka Northgate Twin Theatres)brought it record breaking crowds and sold out several performances. I remember “Superman” playing here in December of 1978,and the lines for the matinee shows were around the corner of the shopping center. Its wasn’t shown in 70MM,but it did have a large auditorium with a super widescreen and was shown in 35MM.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on December 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm

My brother and I saw “Superman” at the Loew’s Astor Plaza on Saturday of its opening weekend. I remember the audience roaring with laughter when Lois interviewed Superman, and later when she said, “That’s Clark, Nice”. I was so impressed by John Williams' score that I immediately went across the street after the movie to the nearest music store, only to be told the record hadn’t been released yet. These days, most soundtracks come out well before the movies' opening day.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on December 15, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Yes, Peter. I am, of course, aware of what you’re talking about. What I remember as a child might have been exclusively arranged for the theater I saw the movie at. What I was describing would have been before the movie started; something to keep our eyes occupied instead of stupid pre-movie commercials.

PeterApruzzese on December 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm

OK, sorry I misunderstood. When I saw it opening night at the Route 4 Paramus in NJ, there was nothing on the screen except the massive curtain.

richjr37 on December 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm

I should have noted that i was living in Houston,TX just a few months before moving to Las Vegas,NV in early 1979,though it was still 1978 when i saw it. Which is why i asked about the Northline Mall.

I’m ALMOST positive it played in 70mm at the Mann Fox in Vegas.

MPol on December 15, 2008 at 3:43 pm

I saw both Superman I and Superman II at the (now-closed) Circle Cinema, in Brookline, MA, when they first came out. They were both cool films. From what I heard, though, Superman III and Superman IV weren’t so hot.

Anyway, happy 30th Birthday to Superman.

JSA on December 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm

In my opinion, still the excellence benchmark with respect to the super-hero movies.

It was respectful of its comic-book origins, while trying to adapt the Superman legend to a late 70’s audience. Credit must be given to Mr. Richard Donner, who kept a well-tempered sense of timing in his direction. In addition to all the qualities that Michael Coate mentioned above, I would also include the almost mystical elements related to Superman’s Kryptonian origins and sense of purpose. My favorite scene is when the young Clark bids farewell to his Earth mother, which always brings tears to my eyes. And although the special effects show their age, they still have an “organic” feel that CGI cannot match yet.

As I recall, among the extra scenes included during the ABC broadcast were an introduction of Louis Lane as a child aboard a train that passes through Smallville, and Superman walking through Lex Luthor’s gauntlet of machine gun fire, flame throwers and freezing turbines. There was another scene that takes place in Krypton, but I don’t remember it from the broadcast. All these are included in the current DVD release, plus are also featured in recent 35 mm prints.


pbubny on December 15, 2008 at 6:33 pm

I also have fond memories of “Superman” and in particular of seeing it for the first time on its opening weekend on a suitably big screen (in 35mm) at the Cinema 23 in Cedar Grove, NJ (now a carved-up fiveplex). Or maybe I should say fond memories of hearing it there: the surround channels at Cinema 23 tended to be too loud relative to the center channel, but for this movie that imbalance worked very well, especially in the opening credits sequence where the very loud “whoosh”-ing effects and the fanfare-laden music really benefited from enveloping the theatre. Of course, the rest of the movie was pretty good too! If I look back on it from a vantage point of 30 years, I see a mish-mash of acting styles and shifts in tone from respectful seriousness to ‘70s campiness, but recalling how I enjoyed it as a college freshman I’m inclined to put aside my more jaded “adult” perspective. Speaking of the scenes that were added to the DVD—I wish there was the option of watching the movie on DVD without the"adult" perspective. Speaking of the scenes that were added to the DVD—I wish there was the option of watching the movie on DVD without the addiitons. They’re interesting to see once, but then they serve only to clutter up a movie that already runs nearly two-and-a-half hours.

pbubny on December 15, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Hi, my comment got a little bolloxed up with cutting-and-pasting. I meant to say that I would like to be able to watch the DVD without the added scenes, not to watch it without an adult perspective!

KingBiscuits on December 15, 2008 at 8:27 pm

I first saw this when I was eleven or twelve when I rented it from Blockbuster. I remember reading that it was one of the best superhero movies and I wasn’t disappointed in the least bit. Soon I rented the others and saw Superman Returns in theatres when it opened in 2006.

In order (best to worst): I, II, Returns, IV, Supergirl, III.

neeb on December 16, 2008 at 2:25 am

Does anyone know where it played in the Seattle / Tacoma area?
I don’t think it was the Cinerama or the UA 150/70.
Was it at the SouthCenter?

kingjamesv on December 16, 2008 at 5:21 am

Prior to the release of the first SUPERMAN movie, I had the privilege of meeting Noel Neill, the best-remembered Losi Lane, in person. She was at my old college and brought an original script from the tv series and students took part and read the script. She joked that Mario Puzo got involved because he was the one who could Lois and Superman in bed together. In SUPERMAN 2, that’s what happened. I find it sad that we treat our heroes this way-instead of the all-American symbol he once was, Superman was brought down to a lower level. When Superman was on tv, the producers went to great lengths to preserve his image as a moral hero. They even cut Lois out of the breakfast food commercials, as they felt it was indecent to have a woman with two men (Clark and Jimmy) in an apartment in the morning. Whole episodes were scrapped when they felt there was violent or immoral content. By the time the newest SUPERMAN came around, Lois is living single with a child. Why can’t we preserve some decency and morality in our heroes? Perhaps that is one reason why America has had such flawed leaders in recent times.

moviebuff82 on December 16, 2008 at 12:27 pm

I first saw Superman I on VHS from the library in the first vhs version, which was shortened from its original length on VHS when it came out in 1979. Then I bought the DVD, which is the extended version that younger fans know. Big improvement, and a fitting addition to the director’s cut of Superman II which is also good. Thankfully I didn’t watch Superman III and IV, but I saw Superman again on the big screen for the first time in “Returns” and it was pretty good. Hopefully with the next “Superman” movie they get inspiration from “The Dark Knight” and tell a darker Superman.

danpetitpas on December 16, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I’m afraid Superman 1 was a happy accident and it took two more decades before superheroes in the movies got some respect. You can hear the whole story in the director’s commentaries of Superman 1 and the restored version of Superman 2. Basically, the producers of the movie were French and everyone laughed when they paid DC Comics $20 million for the movie rights to Superman for 20 years. But because they were French, they really had little idea of who Superman was, but they knew they wanted to make an American-style movie and break into the American movie business. Hiring Mario Puzo was a stunt to get publicity and to capitalize on The Godfather craze of the mid-‘70s. Ditto for hiring Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman. The real shooting script was written by David & Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, which was done in a comedic tone, much like the old Batman TV series. The producers went down the list of directors who directed movies that made more than $100 million, starting with Coppola and Lucas, and ended up with Richard Donner who had just directed The Omen. Donner, quite shrewdly, took over the entire production, having writing partner Tom Mankiewicz redo the script and pushing the producers out of the way. Warner Bros. officially took over the film about 2/3 through when the production ran out of money. The producers repaid Donner by locking him out of the second movie, even though he had shot about 2/3 of the second movie simultaneously with the first. Comedy director Richard Lester was brought in to finish things up. Superman 3 was developed from scratch reflecting the comedic atmosphere the producers originally wanted, as Superman had to fight Robert Vaughan and Richard Pryor! Christopher Reeve agreed to do Superman 4 only if he could direct, and although 4 is much truer to the Superman comic in form and substance, its low budget cheapened the series. Superman Returns is basically a hideous remake of the first Superman movie, destroying the character of Superman in an attempt to modernize him. The rumor is Warner Bros. is considering rebooting the reboot by ignoring Superman Returns.

Superman 1 certainly helped change the perception that the only way a comic book movie could work was to make it like the Batman TV show. But it did take quite a bit of time for Hollywood to discover how to make GOOD comic book movies.

danpetitpas on December 16, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Just a postscript: Chris Reeve didn’t direct Superman 4, but he did help write the screenplay. Veteran director Sidney J. Furie directed the film with a paltry $17 million budget.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on December 16, 2008 at 1:45 pm

I always liked Superman IV. At least it was fun to watch. It may not have been as good as I and II but it was a vast improvement over III, which was no fun at all.

Bill Huelbig
Bill Huelbig on December 16, 2008 at 1:47 pm

And I agree that the new “Superman Returns” was a super dud. All that talent, and that’s all they could come up with?

JodarMovieFan on December 17, 2008 at 7:57 am

This was probably the second movie I ever experienced in a movie theater as I was very young at the time. My oldest brother, who had his driver’s license kidnapped me ( or so I felt at the time because i didn’t want to go) to see Superman at the now closed NTI Landover 6, in Landover , MD. There was no stereo and the auditoriums were all literal shoebox theaters that felt like you were in a tunnel that went deep into the ground. If memory serves me correctly, they did have curtains. I’m thinking they rose and dropped vertically.

My first impression was that the movie took forever to get anywhere. The opening credits were scary because the volume was loud mono and there was a lot of whoooshing and swooshing going around with the blurred lettering. Although, I thought the Superman logo’s depiction was cool. During the Krypton sequence, I feel asleep, only to be elbowed and awakened during the part where Superman rescues the Lois Lane from the helicopter atop the Daily Planet building. At the time, it felt so real with the way they edited that scene together. You had the real scenes of the people, on the street, Superman looking for a place to ‘change’ and Lois dangling over the street by a seatbelt. In spite of the weekday showing and small audience, there was a group sitting in the front (mostly girls) who’d squeal every time there was a Chris Reeve close up, or he did something heroic as Superman. So naturally, when Superman rescues Lois in his one hand and grabs the falling the helicopter with the other, there was this huge applause and hooplah that started from them, that caused a chain reaction of cheers and applause going to the back of the audience. From then on, I was wide awake until the end.

Even as a young..6th grader, I had great appreciation for the movie as I had expected a silly movie much like the old George Reeves' tv show. Having watched that show in reruns and the animated cartoons for years, it was a surprise to me that the Superman movie would be such an enthralling and engaging adventure even in mono sound. I was even on the verge of tears as Lois ‘dies’ after she gets suffocated by all that gravel. When Superman cries out over the death of Lois, the character lost its cardboard corniness and became identifiably human. For this and, of course, Richard Donner’s superb direction, John Williams score and the superb supporting cast, this movie remains my favorite comic book character film of all time.

William on December 17, 2008 at 9:22 am

Justin, The original VHS version when it was first released to the home market had the major part of the end credits cut (which was very long) and was time compressed.

moviebuff82 on December 17, 2008 at 12:03 pm

http://tinyurl.com/3fzlkz…this link has info about all the alternate versions of Supes, from its theatrical release to the DVD extended version. Another good site to check out is http://www.capedwonder.com/, a great source for Superman info. Superman was one of the first major blockbusters to arrive on the very-new VHS, Betamax, and Laserdisc, a format which was introduced in Atlanta on the same day as the Superman movie. The laserdisc was the only version containing the full length movie, and it was in pan-and-scan!!! Luckily, the movie was re-issued in Dolby Surround on VHS and Laserdisc and also in widescreen in 1990 before the film was fully extended on DVD in 2001 and made its debut on both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disc as well as a download on most online video stores.

Eric Friedmann
Eric Friedmann on December 17, 2008 at 1:52 pm

William, I remember what you’re talking about. It was the original VHS tape in the extra large Warner Brothers box with the gatefold front. I suppose that would be a collectible today.

William on December 17, 2008 at 3:08 pm

That’s the one.

Aparofan on December 18, 2008 at 6:54 am

I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. I saw it on opening weekend when I was eight years old at the Empire in Kansas City and was blown away. At the time I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t exactly like the comic but as I got older I liked it more and more. It remains my favorite superhero movie and my favorite John Williams score.

moviebuff82 on December 18, 2008 at 11:10 am

Superman was more than just an average movie for an upcoming star named Reeve. It made him rich and he did more than just fly in tights; he founded a non-profit organziation founded after he suffured a back injury during a horse ride. Both Christopher and Dana sadly passed away, leaving behind their three kids, one from an earlier marriage, but the foundation lives on as one to help those who have disabilities. My former workshop where i work, Employment Horizons, was supported by the Reeve foundation, and Dana was there for the grant before her death two years after Chris died.

Coate on January 21, 2009 at 9:53 am
*Does anyone know where it played in the Seattle / Tacoma area? I don't think it was the Cinerama or the UA 150/70. Was it at the SouthCenter?* -- posted by neeb on Dec 16, 2008

The first-run showings of “Superman” in the Seattle area were at:

Mike Rogers
Mike Rogers on October 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

Superman was really one of the last big blockbusters to play at the Imperial in Augusta.I remember the employees from the Plitt Theatres going down the night before it opened for a sneak preview.I was able to get the one sheet out to Columbia Square for a cross plug.
OF COURSE, I kept it.If i REMEMBER right didn’t it sorta begin this area of listing everyone in the credits including food services. I know alot of nights when no one stayed behind we would cut off the lamps to save carbon arcs. Sometimes,the boothwould just shut down.

GaryCohen on March 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

My wife and I spent a rainy Xmas eve. 1978 sitting with hundreds of others in the Kings Plaza Mall waiting 2 hours for the next showing of “Superman-The Movie.” at the Kings Plaza theater. From the wonderful nostalgic black and white opening to John Williams' stirring theme, this film remains (along with Superman II) my favorite comic-book movie. I loved the Superman comic books I read as a child throughout the Silver-Age and I love this film. That evening remains a very pleasant memory

raysson on April 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm

“SUPERMAN:THE MOVIE” only 70MM-6 Track Dobly Stereo North Carolina Engagement on December 15,1978.

Charlotte: Park Terrace

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