History, Legacy & Showmanship

Still Believing a Man Can Fly

December 15, 2013 - 12:14 pm   |   By 

REMEMBERING “SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE” ON ITS 35TH ANNIVERSARY

It has been a big year for the Man of Steel. The year 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Superman’s debut (in Action Comics issue #1), a new movie was made starring Henry Cavill and directed by Zack Snyder, and, of course, it represents the 35th anniversary of the release of the classic cinematic adventure starring Christopher Reeve and directed by Richard Donner.  The Digital Bits celebrates the occasion with a look back at Superman: The Movie’s opening weekend and features a reflective interview with some Superman authorities.  [Read on here...]

THE ORIGINAL ENGAGEMENTS

Today, you’ll believe a man can fly.  Nothing you have ever seen or heard, no comic book, television program or motion picture could ever prepare you for this reality. This is a brilliant cast in an unforgettable story. The awesome technology of modern films brings you someone to believe in. 

So trumpeted newspapers across the United States and Canada in their splashy advertisements published Friday, December 15, 1978.  Superman opened in about 500 theaters and grossed $7.5 million over its inaugural weekend, one of the most successful openings the industry had seen to that point.  (Adjusted for inflation, the opening weekend brought in about $27 million.)  Ultimately, the movie’s domestic box-office performance topped $130 million (about $475 million adjusted for inflation) during an era when a $100 million gross was impressive and a sign of a genuine blockbuster.

Superman premiere in NYC

For historical record, to reminisce, and to compare and contrast its launch with that of contemporary event movies, listed below are the North American movie theaters that played Superman during its initial release wave.  Hundreds of additional engagements (not listed) commenced in the weeks following the opening.

STATE/PROVINCE

City – chain THEATER NAME (Dolby presentation format, if applicable)

A note about 70-millimeter presentations: For its domestic theatrical release, Warner Bros. struck about two dozen large-format 70mm blow-up prints which featured a special six-track magnetic Dolby stereophonic sound mix.  Although they have been cited in the opening-weekend list below, the majority of these deluxe prints were actually completed too late by the film lab to be delivered to their respective theaters in time for opening weekend.

Superman Astor Plaza

Superman Premiere Ticket

ALABAMA

  • No theaters in Alabama opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

ALASKA

  • No theaters in Alaska opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

ALBERTA

  • Calgary – Famous Players CALGARY PLACE 1 & 2
  • Edmonton – Famous Players PARAMOUNT

ARIZONA

  • Phoenix – Mann CHRIS-TOWN 5 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Scottsdale – Plitt EL CAMINO (Dolby Stereo)
  • Tucson – Mann BUENA VISTA TWIN (Dolby Stereo)

ARKANSAS

  • Fayetteville – Malco RAZORBACK TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fort Smith – United Artists MINITEK CINEMAS 1 & 2
  • Jonesboro – Malco MALCO 5 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Little Rock – United Artists CINEMA 150 (Dolby Stereo)

BRITISH COLUMBIA

  • Surrey – Famous Players GUILDFORD 1 & 2
  • Vancouver – Famous Players CAPITOL 6
  • Victoria – Famous Players CORONET

CALIFORNIA

  • Bakersfield – General Cinema Corporation VALLEY PLAZA CINEMA I & II
  • Berkeley – United Artists CINEMA 4
  • Capitola – Kindair 41st AVENUE PLAYHOUSE 3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Cerritos – United Artists CERRITOS MALL TWIN
  • Costa Mesa – Mann SOUTH COAST PLAZA TRIPLEX (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Covina – Mann FOX TRIPLEX
  • Fairfield – AMERICANA TWIN
  • Fresno – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Glendale – United Artists CAPITOL
  • Hayward – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • La Habra – American Multi-Cinema FASHION SQUARE 4
  • Larkspur – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (Hollywood) – Mann CHINESE (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (Studio City) – Mann STUDIO
  • Los Angeles (Westwood Village) – Mann NATIONAL (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Los Angeles (Woodland Hills) – United Artists WARNER CENTER 6 (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Marina del Rey – United Artists CINEMA 6
  • Menlo Park – West Side Valley PARK
  • Modesto – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Montclair – Sterling Recreation Organization MONTCLAIR TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Monterey – Kindair CINEMA 70 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Napa – Blair RIVERPARK TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Palm Springs – Metropolitan CAMELOT TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Pasadena – Mann ACADEMY (Dolby Stereo)
  • Redondo Beach – General Cinema Corporation SOUTH BAY CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Riverside – United Artists TYLER MALL CINEMA 4
  • Sacramento – Plitt CAPITOL 1-2
  • Salinas – Kindair NORTHRIDGE 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • San Bernardino – General Cinema Corporation INLAND CINEMA I & II
  • San Diego – Mann CINEMA 21 (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Francisco – Plitt NORTHPOINT (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Jose – Mann TOWN & COUNTRY (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • San Mateo – General Cinema Corporation HILLSDALE CINEMA I & II
  • Santa Barbara – Metropolitan GRANADA (Dolby Stereo)
  • Santa Rosa – United Artists CINEMAS 6
  • Stockton – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Ventura – Mann FOX
  • Visalia – General Cinema Corporation SEQUOIA MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Walnut Creek – Festival Enterprises FESTIVAL CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Westminster – Edwards CINEMA WEST 4 (Dolby Stereo)

COLORADO

  • Boulder – Mann BOULDER
  • Colorado Springs – United Artists CINEMA 150
  • Denver – Mann CENTURY 21 (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Fort Collins – Mann FOX
  • Pueblo – Commonwealth COOPER

CONNECTICUT

  • Danbury – RKO Century PALACE TRIPLEX
  • East Hartford – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Groton – United Artists CINEMA 1 & 2
  • Meriden – General Cinema Corporation MERIDEN MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Norwich – RKO Century PALACE TWIN
  • Orange – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Stamford – Cinema Circuit STAMFORD
  • Stratford – Perakos HI-WAY CINEMA 1 & 2
  • Trumbull – United Artists TRUMBULL
  • Waterbury – General Cinema Corporation NAUGATUCK VALEY MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Westport – Nutmeg FINE ARTS I & II

DELAWARE

  • Wilmington – Budco CONCORD MALL TWIN

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

  • Washington – General Cinema Corporation JENIFER CINEMA I & II (Dolby Stereo)

FLORIDA

  • Altamonte Springs – General Cinema Corporation ALTAMONTE CINEMA I & II
  • Clearwater – Plitt SUNSHINE MALL TWIN
  • Coral Gables – General Cinema Corporation RIVIERA CINEMA I & II
  • Daytona Beach – General Cinema Corporation BELLAIR PLAZA CINEMA I & II
  • Fort Lauderdale – General Cinema Corporation 16TH STREET
  • Fort Lauderdale – General Cinema Corporation SUNRISE CINEMA I-II-III
  • Fort Myers – Plitt PLAZA
  • Gainesville – Wometco PLAZA TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Hialeah – General Cinema Corporation HIALEAH CINEMA I-II-III
  • Hollywood – Plitt FLORIDA TWIN
  • Jacksonville – Plitt REGENCY TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Kendale Lakes – Wometco KENDALE LAKES TRIPLE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Lakeland – Plitt POLK
  • Merritt Island – Kent BARN TWIN
  • Miami – General Cinema Corporation WESTCHESTER CINEMA I & II
  • North Miami Beach – General Cinema Corporation 170th STREET CINEMA I & II
  • North Palm Beach – Budco TWIN CITY CINEMAS
  • Ocala – Plitt SPRINGS TWIN
  • Orange Park – Plitt KINGSLEY TWIN
  • Orlando – Plitt PLAZA TWIN
  • Pensacola – Plitt PLAZA TWIN
  • Pompano Beach – General Cinema Corporation POMPANO CINEMA I & II
  • St. Petersburg – Plitt PLAZA TWIN
  • Sarasota – Plitt PLAZA TWIN
  • Satellite Beach – Kent SATELLITE TWIN
  • Tallahassee – Fairlane-Litchfield CAPITOL CINEMAS
  • Tampa – Budco FLORILAND TWIN
  • Tampa – Plitt HILLSBORO 1-2-3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • West Palm Beach – General Cinema Corporation CINEMA 70 I-II-III

GEORGIA

  • Athens – Plitt PALACE 1-2
  • Atlanta – General Cinema Corporation AKERS MILL SQUARE CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Augusta – Plitt IMPERIAL
  • College Park – Storey NATIONAL TRIPLE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Columbus – Plitt PLAZA 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Doraville – Septum BUFORD HIGHWAY TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fayetteville – FAYETTE
  • Gainesville – Thompson BLUE RIDGE CINEMAS III (Dolby Stereo)
  • Savannah – Weis CINEMA CENTRE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Stone Mountain – Plitt STONEMONT 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)

HAWAII

  • Honolulu – Consolidated WAIKIKI 3

IDAHO

  • Boise – Commonwealth FAIRVU

ILLINOIS

  • Aurora – WEST PLAZA CINEMA I-II-III
  • Barrington – CATLOW
  • Belleville – Bloomer Amusement Company CINEMA (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Bloomington – General Cinema Corporation EASTLAND CINEMA I-II-III
  • Calumet City – Plitt RIVER OAKS 1-2-3-4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Carbondale – Mann EAST GATE
  • Carpentersville – General Cinema Corporation MEADOWDALE CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V
  • Champaign – Kerasotes ORPHEUM
  • Chicago – General Cinema Corporation FORD CITY CINEMA I-II-III (Dolby Stereo)
  • Chicago – Plitt ESQUIRE (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Chicago – Plitt GATEWAY
  • Crest Hill – Plitt HILLCREST (Dolby Stereo)
  • Crystal Lake – Rhyan SHOWPLACE 5 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Decatur – General Cinema Corporation NORTHGATE MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Matteson – General Cinema Corporation LINCOLN MALL CINEMA I-II-III (Dolby Stereo)
  • Milan – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Niles – Fink GOLF MILL 1-2-3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Northbrook – Center EDENS 1-2 (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Oak Brook – Plitt OAKBROOK (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Orland Park – Plitt ORLAND SQUARE 1-2-3-4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Peoria – Plitt MADISON
  • Rockford – Plitt MIDWAY
  • Round Lake Beach – Plitt ROUND LAKE 1-2
  • Schaumburg – Plitt WOODFIELD 1-2-3-4 (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Springfield – Mann TOWN & COUNTRY
  • Waukegan – Plitt GENESEE

INDIANA

  • Anderson – General Cinema Corporation MOUNDS MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Bloomington – General Cinema Corporation COLLEGE MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Evansville – Koewler EAST PARK CINEMAS
  • Evansville – Stieler NORTH PARK CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fort Wayne – Mallers-Spirou HOLIDAY 1 & 2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Greenwood – General Cinema Corporation GREENWOOD PARK CINEMA I-II-III
  • Indianapolis – General Cinema Corporation GLENDALE CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V (Dolby Stereo)
  • Kokomo – General Cinema Corporation KOKOMO MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Lafayette – LAFAYETTE
  • Merrillville – General Cinema Corporation SOUTHLAKE CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Michigan City – General Cinema Corporation MICHIGAN CITY CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Mishawaka – Plitt TOWN & COUNTRY 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Muncie – General Cinema Corporation NORTHWEST PLAZA CINEMA I-II-III
  • Richmond – Kerasotes SIDEWALK (Dolby Stereo)
  • Terre Haute – General Cinema Corporation TOWNE SOUTH PLAZA CINEMA I-II-III

IOWA

  • No theaters in Iowa opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

KANSAS

  • Overland Park – Dickinson GLENWOOD I & II (Dolby Stereo)
  • Topeka – Dickinson DICKINSON
  • Wichita – Commonwealth CREST (Dolby Stereo)

KENTUCKY

  • Ashland – Mid States MIDTOWN CINEMAS 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Florence – Mid States FLORENCE CINEMAS 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Lexington – Mid States NORTHPARK CINEMAS 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Lexington – Mid States SOUTHPARK CINEMAS 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Louisville – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Owensboro – Malco PLAZA TWIN (Dolby Stereo)

LOUISIANA

  • No theaters in Louisiana opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

MAINE

  • Brewer – Cinema Centers BREWER CINEMA CENTER IV
  • South Portland – General Cinema Corporation MAINE MALL CINEMA I-II-III

MANITOBA

  • Winnipeg – Famous Players METROPOLITAN

MARYLAND

  • Baltimore – Jack Fruchtman HIPPODROME
  • Dundalk – Jack Fruchtman NORTHPOINT PLAZA
  • Frederick – Interstate FREDERICK TOWNE MALL CINEMAS 1 & 2
  • Glen Burnie – General Cinema Corporation HARUNDALE CINEMA I & II
  • Greenbelt – Showcase BELTWAY PLAZA
  • Hagerstown – Interstate LONG MEADOW CINEMAS
  • Joppatowne – Jack Fruchtman JOPPATOWNE
  • La Vale – Broumas CENTER
  • Landover – Neighborhood LANDOVER 6
  • Oxon Hill – Showcase OXON HILL
  • Rockville – Showcase PIKE
  • Salisbury – Rechir & Cohen WORLD TWIN
  • Towson – Rappaport HILLENDALE
  • Woodlawn – General Cinema Corporation SECURITY MALL CINEMA I & II

MASSACHUSETTS

  • Acton – ACTON TWIN
  • Boston – Sack CINEMA 57 TWIN (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Brockton – General Cinema Corporation WESTGATE MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V
  • Brookline – Redstone CLEVELAND CIRCLE 1-2-3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Danvers – Sack LIBERTY TREE MALL 1-2
  • Dedham – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fall River – Interstate CENTER TWIN
  • Framingham – General Cinema Corporation SHOPPERS WORLD CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V
  • Hanover – General Cinema Corporation HANOVER MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Hyannis – Interstate CAPE COD MALL CINEMA CENTRE 3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Lawrence – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Leominster – Sack LEOMINSTER CINEMAS
  • Milford – Interstate MILFORD CINEMAS 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • North Dartmouth – General Cinema Corporation NORTH DARTMOUTH MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Raynham – Hallmark CHALET
  • Seekonk – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • West Springfield – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Woburn – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Worcester – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)

MICHIGAN

  • Ann Arbor – Mann FOX VILLAGE TWIN
  • Battle Creek – Butterfield TOWNE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Bloomfield Hills – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS
  • Dearborn – Nicholas George WESTBORN
  • Flint – Plitt EASTLAND MALL
  • Harper Woods – Redstone BEACON EAST TWIN
  • Kalamazoo – General Cinema Corporation MAPLE HILL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Lansing – Mann SPARTAN TRIPLEX
  • Livonia – Nicholas George MAI KAI (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Roseville – General Cinema Corporation MACOMB MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Saginaw – Goodrich QUAD
  • Southfield – Nicholas George AMERICANA COMPLEX (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Southgate – Nicholas George SOUTHGATE TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Sterling Heights – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Wyoming – Loeks STUDIO 28 SIXPLEX

MINNESOTA

  • Bloomington – General Cinema Corporation SOUTHTOWN (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Brooklyn Center – Plitt BROOKDALE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Duluth – Plitt NORSHOR
  • Roseville – General Cinema Corporation HAR-MAR CINEMA I-II-III

MISSISSIPPI

  • Biloxi – Ogden-Perry EDGEWATER PLAZA CINEMA IV
  • Hattiesburg – Ogden-Perry BROADACRES CINEMA IV

MISSOURI

  • Columbia – Commonwealth CINEMA (Dolby Stereo)
  • Hazelwood – Mid-America VILLAGE
  • Kansas City – American Multi-Cinema EMPIRE 4
  • Richmond Heights – Mid-America ESQUIRE 4
  • Springfield – Mann CENTURY 21
  • Sunset Hills – Mann MARK TWAIN (Dolby Stereo)

MONTANA

  • Missoula – Mann FOX

NEBRASKA

  • Omaha – Mann FOX TWIN

NEVADA

  • Las Vegas – Mann FOX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Reno – Mann CINEMA

NEW BRUNSWICK

  • No theaters in New Brunswick opened Superman on December 15, 1978. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

  • Bedford – General Cinema Corporation BEDFORD MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Concord – Cantin CONCORD
  • Nashua – General Cinema Corporation NASHUA MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Newington – Sonderling Broadcasting Corporation CINE 1,2,3,4

NEW JERSEY

  • Bricktown – Music Makers MALL TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Cedar Grove – CINEMA 23 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Clifton – ALLWOOD (Dolby Stereo)
  • East Brunswick – United Artists TURNPIKE INDOOR/OUTDOOR TWIN
  • Edgewater – United Artists SHOWBOAT QUAD
  • Freehold – Music Makers FREEHOLD TWIN
  • Hackettstown – MALL
  • Hanover – General Cinema Corporation MORRIS COUNTY MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Jersey City – General Cinema Corporation HUDSON PLAZA CINEMA I & II
  • Middletown – United Artists THE MOVIES AT MIDDLETOWN
  • Northfield – Milgram TILTON TWIN
  • Oakland – OAKLAND TWIN
  • Ocean – General Cinema Corporation SEAVIEW SQUARE CINEMA I & II
  • Paramus – Century PARAMUS TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Parsippany – Loews TWIN
  • Princeton – Budco PRINCE TWIN
  • Raritan – General Cinema Corporation SOMERVILLE CIRCLE CINEMA I & II (Dolby Stereo)
  • Secaucus – Loews QUAD (Dolby Stereo)
  • South Plainfield – United Artists MIDDLESEX MALL TWIN
  • Toms River – General Cinema Corporation OCEAN COUNTY MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Totowa – United Artists CINEMA 46 TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Watchung – General Cinema Corporation BLUE STAR CINEMA I-II-III
  • West Orange – General Cinema Corporation ESSEX GREEN CINEMA I & II
  • Westmont – Milgram WESTMONT
  • Westwood – United Artists PASCACK

NEW MEXICO

  • Albuquerque – Commonwealth HILAND (Dolby Stereo)

NEW YORK

  • Amherst – General Cinema Corporation BOULEVARD MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Babylon – United Artists BABYLON
  • Big Flats – General Cinema Corporation CINEMA I & II ON THE MALL
  • Cheektowaga – General Cinema Corporation THRUWAY MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Colonie – Mann FOX COLONIE TWIN
  • DeWitt – CinemaNational CINEMA EAST (Dolby Stereo)
  • East Meadow – United Artists MEADOWBROOK QUAD
  • Garden City – Century ROOSEVELT FIELD
  • Gates – General Cinema Corporation WESTMAR PLAZA CINEMA I & II
  • Great Neck – United Artists SQUIRE
  • Henrietta – General Cinema Corporation TODD MART PLAZA CINEMA I & II
  • Huntington – Century SHORE TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Hyde Park – ROOSEVELT
  • Johnson City – CinemaNational OAKDALE MALL CINEMAS
  • Kingston – KINGSTON TWIN
  • Liverpool – CinemaNational BAYBERRY
  • Massapequa – United Artists THE MOVIES AT SUNRISE MALL
  • Middletown – CinemaNational CINEMA
  • Mohegan Lake – General Cinema Corporation WESTCHESTER MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Mount Kisco – Lesser MT. KISCO TWIN
  • Nanuet – CinemaNational MALL
  • New Hartford – CinemaNational CINEMA NEW HARTFORD
  • New Rochelle – Century MALL
  • New Windsor – Cinecom SQUIRE
  • New York (Bronx) – Loews AMERICAN TWIN
  • New York (Bronx) – United Artists VALENTINE
  • New York (Brooklyn) – Century KINGS PLAZA TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Brooklyn) – Century KINGSWAY TWIN
  • New York (Brooklyn) – Golden BENSON TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Brooklyn) – Interboro HARBOR
  • New York (Brooklyn) – Loews METROPOLITAN
  • New York (Brooklyn) – RKO Stanley Warner KENMORE QUAD (Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Manhattan) – Cinema 5 MURRAY HILL (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Manhattan) – Loews ASTOR PLAZA (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Manhattan) – Loews ORPHEUM (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Queens) – Century PROSPECT TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • New York (Queens) – Loews BAY TERRACE TWIN
  • New York (Queens) – United Artists ASTORIA QUAD
  • New York (Queens) – United Artists CROSSBAY TWIN
  • New York (Queens) – United Artists MIDWAY QUAD
  • New York (Staten Island) – Mann FOX PLAZA TWIN
  • New York (Staten Island) – United Artists ISLAND TWIN
  • Olean – Manos OLEAN CENTER MALL CINEMAS III
  • Patchogue – United Artists PATCHOGUE
  • Rockville Centre – Century FANTASY
  • Schenectady – CinemaNational MOHAWK MALL CINEMAS
  • Smithtown – United Artists SMITHTOWN
  • Southampton – United Artists SOUTHAMPTON
  • Suffern – Venturini LAFAYETTE
  • Watertown – Interstate STATEWAY PLAZA CINEMA CENTRE 3
  • West Seneca – General Cinema Corporation SENECA MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Yonkers – General Cinema Corporation CENTRAL PLAZA CINEMA I & II

NEWFOUNDLAND

  • No theaters in Newfoundland opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

NORTH CAROLINA

  • Asheville – Irvin-Fuller MERRIMON TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Cary – Fairlane-Litchfield IMPERIAL IV (Dolby Stereo)
  • Chapel Hill – Plitt CAROLINA TWIN
  • Charlotte – General Cinema Corporation CHARLOTTETOWN CINEMA I-II-III
  • Charlotte – Plitt TRYON MALL 1 & 2
  • Durham – Martin NORTHGATE TWIN
  • Fayetteville – General Cinema Corporation CROSS CREEK MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Goldsboro – Stewart & Everett BERKELEY CINEMA 1 & 2
  • Greensboro – Plitt TERRACE 1 & 2
  • Raleigh – Plitt CARDINAL 1 & 2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Wilmington – Stewart & Everett OLEANDER CINEMA 1 & 2
  • Winston-Salem – General Cinema Corporation HANES MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV

NORTH DAKOTA

  • No theaters in North Dakota opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

NOVA SCOTIA

  • Halifax – Famous Players PARAMOUNT

OHIO

  • Akron – General Cinema Corporation CHAPEL HILL MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Akron – National AKRON SQUARE CINE 6
  • Canton – General Cinema Corporation MELLETT MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Cincinnati – Mid States CAROUSEL CINEMAS 1-2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Cincinnati – Mid States NORTHGATE CINEMAS 5 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Columbus – General Cinema Corporation TOWN & COUNTRY CINEMA I & II
  • Columbus – General Cinema Corporation UNIVERSITY CITY CINEMA I & II
  • Columbus – Mid States CONTINENT CINEMAS 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Dayton – Chakeres DAYTON MALL CINEMAS 1-2-3-4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Fairborn – Chakeres FAIRBORN TWIN
  • Fairview Park – National FAIRVIEW TWIN
  • Hamilton – CINEMA WEST
  • Lima – AMERICAN MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Mayfield Heights – General Cinema Corporation MAYLAND CINEMA I & II
  • Mentor – General Cinema Corporation MENTOR MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • North Randall – General Cinema Corporation RANDALL PARK CINEMA I-II-III
  • Ontario – General Cinema Corporation RICHLAND MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Parma – General Cinema Corporation PARAMTOWN CINEMA I-II-III
  • Springfield – General Cinema Corporation UPPER VALLEY CINEMA I-II-III
  • Toledo – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS (Dolby Stereo)
  • Trotwood – Mid States SALEM MALL CINEMAS 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Wheelersburg – Lancaster WHEELERSBURG TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)

OKLAHOMA

  • Oklahoma City – Commonwealth FRENCH MARKET TWIN
  • Oklahoma City – Commonwealth REDING 4
  • Tulsa – Mann FOX TWIN

ONTARIO

  • Hamilton – Famous Players CENTURY
  • Kingston – Famous Players CAPITOL 4
  • Kitchener – Premier LYRIC
  • London – Famous Players CENTURY 1 & 2
  • Mississauga – Famous Players SQUARE ONE 7
  • Oshawa – Famous Players OSHAWA CENTRE
  • Ottawa – Famous Players NELSON
  • St. Catharines – Famous Players PEN CENTRE
  • Toronto – Famous Players CEDARBRAE 6
  • Toronto – Famous Players HOLLYWOOD TWIN
  • Toronto – Famous Players IMPERIAL 6
  • Windsor – 20th Century VANITY

OREGON

  • Beaverton – Luxury Theatres WESTGATE TRI-CINEMA (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Eugene – Luxury Theatres MCDONALD
  • Portland – Luxury Theatres EASTGATE TRI-CINEMA (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)

PENNSYLVANIA

  • Altoona – Manos LOGAN VALLEY MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Ardmore – Budco SUBURBAN
  • Bensalem – American Multi-Cinema PREMIERE TWIN
  • Charleroi – Manos COYLE
  • Connellsville – Manos LAUREL MALL
  • Doylestown – Budco BARN 5
  • Du Bois – Manos DU BOIS MALL CINEMAS III
  • Easton – SamEric EASTON TWIN
  • Erie – General Cinema Corporation MILLCREEK MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Exton – Budco EXTON TWIN
  • Greensburg – General Cinema Corporation GREENGATE MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Harrisburg – SamEric TWIN EAST PARK CENTER
  • Hazleton – Cinecom CHURCH HILL TWIN
  • Indiana – Manos INDIANA
  • Johnstown – ACT I & II
  • King of Prussia – General Cinema Corporation VALLEY FORGE CINEMA I & II
  • Lancaster – Budco WONDERLAND 3
  • Lebanon – Fox FOX
  • Monaca – General Cinema Corporation BEAVER VALLEY MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Monroeville – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS EAST (Dolby Stereo)
  • North Wales – Budco 309 TWIN
  • Philadelphia – Milgram FOX (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Pittsburgh – Cinemette FULTON
  • Reading – Fox FOX NORTH (Dolby Stereo)
  • Robinson – Redstone SHOWCASE CINEMAS WEST
  • Scranton – General Cinema Corporation VIEWMONT MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Springfield – Budco SPRINGFIELD TWIN
  • State College – Cinemette GARDEN
  • Stroudsburg – Music Makers STROUD MALL TRIPLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Whitehall – General Cinema Corporation LEHIGH VALLEY MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Wilkes-Barre – General Cinema Corporation WYOMING VALLEY MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV-V
  • York – Budco YORK TWIN

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

  • No theaters in Prince Edward Island opened Superman on December 15, 1978. 

QUEBEC

  • No theaters in Quebec opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

RHODE ISLAND

  • Newport – SSC OPERA HOUSE

SASKATCHEWAN

  • Regina – Famous Players METROPOLITAN
  • Saskatoon – Famous Players PARAMOUNT

SOUTH CAROLINA

  • Charleston – Plitt ULTRAVISION 1 & 2
  • Columbia – Irvin-Fuller DUTCH SQUARE TWIN
  • Columbia – Irvin-Fuller SPRING VALLEY 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Greenville – Plitt GREENVILLE MALL 1 & 2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • North Charleston – General Cinema Corporation CHARLES TOWNE SQUARE CINEMA I & II
  • Spartanburg – Irvin-Fuller HILLCREST TWIN

SOUTH DAKOTA

  • No theaters in South Dakota opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

TENNESSEE

  • Antioch – Consolidated HICKORY HOLLOW MALL 1-2-3
  • Chattanooga – Martin SHOWCASE 1 & 2
  • Goodlettsville – Consolidated CINEMA 4 NORTH
  • Jackson – Malco PARAMOUNT
  • Knoxville – Plitt CEDAR BLUFF 1 & 2
  • Memphis – Malco MEMPHIAN
  • Memphis – Malco RIDGEWAY QUARTET (Dolby Stereo)
  • Nashville – Consolidated CINEMA 4 SOUTH
  • Nashville – Martin BELCOURT TWIN (Dolby Stereo)

TEXAS

  • Abilene – General Cinema Corporation WESTGATE CINEMA I & II
  • Amarillo – Mann FOX TWIN
  • Arlington – Texas Cinema Corporation CINEMA 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Austin – Mann FOX TRIPLEX
  • Baytown – Tercar BAY PLAZA 1 & 2
  • Beaumont – General Cinema Corporation GATEWAY CINEMA I & II
  • Brownsville – Plitt MAJESTIC TWIN
  • College Station – Plitt CINEMA TWIN
  • Corpus Christi – Mann NATIONAL TWIN
  • Dallas – General Cinema Corporation NORTHPARK CINEMA I & II (70mm Six-Track Dolby Stereo)
  • Dallas – General Cinema Corporation RED BIRD MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Denton – Plitt CINEMA
  • El Paso – Mann FOX TWIN
  • Fort Worth – Plitt RIDGLEA (Dolby Stereo)
  • Friendswood – General Cinema Corporation BAYBROOK MALL CINEMA I-II-III-IV
  • Galveston – General Cinema Corporation GALVEZ PLAZA CINEMA I-II-III
  • Harlingen – Plitt CINEMA TRIPLE
  • Houston – General Cinema Corporation GULFGATE CINEMA I & II
  • Houston – General Cinema Corporation MEYERLAND PLAZA CINEMA I-II-III
  • Houston – General Cinema Corporation NORTHLINE CINEMA I & II
  • Houston – Plitt WOODLAKE 1-2-3
  • Hurst – Plitt BELAIRE 1 & 2
  • Irving – General Cinema Corporation IRVING MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Lake Jackson – LAKE I & II (Dolby Stereo)
  • Laredo – THE MOVIES
  • Lubbock – Noret SHOWPLACE 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • McAllen – Plitt CINEMA TWIN
  • Midland – United Artists CINE 4 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Odessa – United Artists WINWOOD TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Port Arthur – Gulf States PARK PLAZA TWIN
  • Richardson – General Cinema Corporation RICHARDSON SQUARE CINEMA I-II-III
  • San Angelo – Noret VILLAGE CINEMA 1 & 2
  • San Antonio – Santikos CENTURY SOUTH 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • San Antonio – Santikos NORTHWEST 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Sherman – United Artists SHER-DEN MALL CINEMA 1 & 2
  • Temple – Texas Cinema Corporation CINEMA 6 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Texas City – TRADEWINDS 1 & 2 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Tyler – Plitt TYLER
  • Waco – Plitt 25TH STREET
  • Wichita Falls – Plitt WICHITA

UTAH

  • Provo – Mann FOX
  • Salt Lake City – Mann VILLA (Dolby Stereo)
  • South Ogden – Plitt WILSHIRE 1-2-3

VERMONT

  • South Burlington – CinemaNational CENTURY PLAZA 1 & 2

VIRGINIA

  • No theaters in Virginia opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

WASHINGTON

  • Bellevue – Sterling Recreation Organization JOHN DANZ (Dolby Stereo)
  • Everett – General Cinema Corporation EVERETT MALL CINEMA I-II-III
  • Lynnwood – Sterling Recreation Organization LYNN 4
  • Olympia – Luxury Theatres STATE TRI-CINEMA
  • Seattle – Sterling Recreation Organization LAKE CITY (Dolby Stereo)
  • Spokane – Sterling Recreation Organization STATE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Tacoma – Sterling Recreation Organization TACOMA MALL TWIN (Dolby Stereo)
  • Tukwila – Sterling Recreation Organization LEWIS & CLARK 3 (Dolby Stereo)

WEST VIRGINIA

  • Charleston – CAPITOL
  • Huntington – Greater Huntington CINEMA (Dolby Stereo)
  • Vienna – General Cinema Corporation GRAND CENTRAL CINEMA I & II

WISCONSIN

  • Brookfield – General Cinema Corporation BROOKFIELD SQUARE CINEMA I & II
  • Green Bay – Standard BAY 3 (Dolby Stereo)
  • Madison – General Cinema Corporation EAST TOWNE MALL CINEMA I & II
  • Madison – Madison 20th Century HILLDALE (Dolby Stereo)
  • Milwaukee – Capitol MILL ROAD 4-PLEX (Dolby Stereo)
  • Milwaukee – United Artists SOUTHGATE
  • Racine – General Cinema Corporation CINEMA I & II

WYOMING

  • No theaters in Wyoming opened Superman on December 15, 1978.

Superman ad (L.A. Times - 12.15.1978)

 

THE INTERVIEW

Mike Matessino is a Soundtrack Producer and Film Music Preservationist.  He was involved with the Superman soundtrack CDs released in 2000 and 2008. Other soundtrack projects have included Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Poltergeist, 1941, The Star Wars Trilogy, and many others.  While with Sharpline Arts he produced numerous documentaries and supplemental material for LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases, including Alien, The Sound of Music, and The Thing.

Bruce Scivally is the author of Superman on Film, Television, Radio & Broadway (McFarland, 2006).  He has also written Billion Dollar Batman: A History of the Caped Crusader on Film, Radio and Television from 10¢ Comic Book to Global Icon (Henry Gray, 2011) and (with John Cork) James Bond: The Legacy (Abrams, 2002).  He also has written and produced numerous documentaries and featurettes that have appeared as supplemental material on LaserDisc, DVD and Blu-ray Disc, including several of the Charlie Chan, James Bond, and Pink Panther releases.  He teaches screenwriting, film production and cinema history and theory at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago and Columbia College.

Michael Coate (The Digital Bits):  In what way is Superman worthy of celebration on its 35th anniversary?

Mike Matessino

Mike Matessino: Superman remains a great, groundbreaking movie that is highly entertaining and beautifully made.  It’s a true classic.  This anniversary also aligns with the 75th anniversary of the character and next year is the centennial of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.  The 1978 movie falls right in the middle of the character’s history and crystallizes, if you’ll pardon the pun, all of his mythology.

Bruce Scivally:  It seems that when you go to the multiplexes now, half the movies in theaters, and certainly the highest-grossers, are films based on comic books.  That is a phenomenon that began with Richard Donner’s Superman.  Before 1978, there was a general consensus that – with movie serials having died out in the 1950s – the place for superheroes was television.  This was cemented by the success of the Superman TV series in the 1950s, and Batman in the late 1960s.  In the 1970s, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man and The Hulk came to prime-time TV, and there were TV-movie pilots for other heroes, like Captain America and Doctor Strange.  Plus, a live-action Captain Marvel had a successful run on Saturday mornings.  So when Ilya Salkind proposed the idea of Superman as a big-budget, star-studded feature film, it was – at the time – a very radical idea.  And I truly believe that if Superman had failed at the box-office, we wouldn’t have all the Marvel and DC Comics-inspired films flooding theaters now.

Coate:  How is Superman significant within the comic book/superhero film genres?

Matessino:  Obviously Superman: The Movie is the template for every comic book superhero movie that followed.  Prior to that, what immediately came to people’s minds was the 1960s Batman TV series.  The 1978 film walked a fine line, incorporating just enough campy humor but treating the character seriously and depicting the world as a real one. 

Scivally:  Superman took a comic book subject and treated it with respect.  After the campy 1960s Batman, that was a big deal.  But, as creative consultant Tom Mankiewicz once said to me, the safe and easy way to do a superhero movie is to stand outside of it and make fun of it.  What is more difficult – and more interesting – is to get inside the material and treat it with respect.  While he was rewriting Superman for Richard Donner, the watchword was “verisimilitude” – they had to make it seem like it could actually happen.  This was later reflected in the ad-line for the movie: “You’ll believe a man can fly.”

Coate:  Were you a fan of the Superman character prior to seeing the 1978 movie?

Matessino: I wasn’t a comic book reader as a kid, but the George Reeves TV series was re-run in syndication constantly and the character also appeared on Saturday morning cartoons at the time, and I was a faithful watcher of both. 

Scivally:  Some of my earliest memories are of watching George Reeves in reruns of The Adventures of Superman.  From as far back as I can remember, I was captivated by Superman.  I think the character has enormous appeal for children, because when you are small and powerless, the ultimate fantasy is to be bigger and stronger, if not smarter, than everyone else.  Throw in flying and bullets bouncing off your chest, and that’s just way cool.

Coate:  Can you recall your reaction to the first time you saw the 1978 Superman movie?

Matessino:  I loved the movie immediately and what I associate with my overall “reaction” is the beginning of the picture… the opening of a curtain, the black-and-white comic book prologue, and then the incredible impact when the screen widens, the colorful animated credits fly past you and John Williams’ theme starts thundering in Dolby Stereo.  It was so theatrical and it felt that this is what going to the movies was all about.

Scivally:  I wish I could say I was ecstatic, but it’s a little more complicated than that.  From the time I first heard about the film, I followed its progress through magazines like Starlog and Fantastic Films and little blurbs in the entertainment columns of newspapers.  There were rumors that the producers were pulling out all the stops and had developed a new kind of 3-D system that would make it seem like Superman was flying right out of the screen.  By the time I got to the theater – and I went with a group of my high school friends – I was so filled with the hype that there was no way ANY movie could live up to it, so it was a bit of a disappointment.  I also wasn’t bowled over by Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, or the overall campy tone of the modern-day Metropolis scenes.  Having gotten over that initial letdown, however, the film really grew on me in subsequent viewings, and now when I watch it I feel it’s just about perfect.  One of the things that experience taught me, however, is to avoid, as much as possible, all hype for a movie until I’ve seen it.

Coate:  Compare and contrast Christopher Reeve's performance with that of other actors who have portrayed the character of Superman.  Was Christopher Reeve the best Superman?

Matessino:  I think all of the actors who’ve portrayed Superman over the years were well chosen in the sense that each had an instinct about what the character meant for the time in which each played the role.  Christopher Reeve was the first one to plausibly deal with the conceit of why no one could recognize that Clark Kent was Superman with glasses on.  He played Clark exactly like what he would really be… a farm boy totally overwhelmed by the big city.  It didn’t feel like something he was doing just to conceal his identity.  It therefore felt relatable.  It tapped into that sense we all have that there is an ideal, confident, balanced person inside each of us. 

Scivally:  Looking at the actors who have portrayed Superman on film and TV, Kirk Alyn was pretty much a stock serial hero, without a lot of shadings to his portrayal – but then the serials never had characters who were more than one or two-dimensional.  George Reeves gave two performances as Superman.  In the first couple of seasons, his Superman is a tough crime-fighter.  In the later seasons – the ones made after Dr. Frederick Wertham’s notorious attack on comic books – he’s a much jollier, affable Superman.  His portrayal of Clark Kent softened as well, though there was never much differentiation between his Kent and his Superman; his early Kent was a tough, no-nonsense reporter who would have been at home in a Humphrey Bogart crime thriller.  Looking back at the shows now, George Reeves’ Superman is like a surrogate parent, with Lois and Jimmy his children that he has to keep in check and keep rescuing from trouble.  It was a pretty innocent portrayal for a much more innocent time.  There wouldn’t be another major live-action portrayal (outside of TV commercials) until Christopher Reeve twenty years later. By that time, the country had experienced the Vietnam War and Watergate, so the wide-eyed innocent approach wouldn’t have resonated with a much more cynical, jaded era.  Consequently, Christopher Reeve – under Donner’s direction – gave more shadings to Clark Kent and Superman.  For the first time, audiences could see a hint of sadness and loneliness in the character, and Reeve made a much greater effort to play Kent and Superman as different individuals, which helps sell the illusion that Lois Lane wouldn’t be able to see past the whole eyeglasses-as-disguise bit.  While his Superman is a confident charmer, his Clark Kent is a shy, bumbling Jimmy Stewart type.  Or, as Reeve put it, his Kent is a put-on, a reflection of the way the alien Kal-El (Superman) sees us.

Coate:  Between the original theatrical release, television broadcasts and the numerous home-video releases of Superman, which cut/version do you feel is the best?

Matessino:  I think that the original theatrical release – with its original sound mix only – is nearly perfect.  The extended TV cut is interesting because we get to see what else was shot and it serves its own purpose, but I think all the right editorial decisions were made in creating the theatrical cut.  The one piece of added footage I wish they’d kept is the one that shows Superman’s attempt to catch the eastbound missile head on, only to establish that its avoidance system prevents him from doing so.  The movie establishes that Metropolis is basically New York with a name change, and therefore the geography is unclear when Superman leaves Metropolis and ends up BEHIND the eastbound missile.  They may have cut that material because the visual effect was unsatisfactory, but it also unfortunately necessitated the abrupt cutting of the music score there. 

Scivally:  I’m always a fan of sticking to the original presentation, so I prefer the original theatrical cut.  The same goes for Superman II – despite the much-heralded Donner Cut, I still feel the original Donner/Lester hybrid is superior.

Coate:  How significant is John Wiliams' score?

Matessino:  The importance of the music cannot be understated.  I’ve said this before, but the genius of this work is that Williams didn’t just score the movie at hand, he scored the entire Superman myth.  His main theme can be applied to every incarnation of the character that preceded it, and it kept getting used through the ’80s and on into Superman Returns and even Smallville.  You listen to the score and you get the whole Superman story… Krypton, Smallville, Metropolis, his relationship with Lois Lane, villains, and heroic action.  The score itself communicates all the basics of the story.

Scivally:  How significant is John Williams’ score? That’s like asking, how significant is oxygen?  John Williams is a certifiable genius, whose music has lifted many a movie into a higher realm.  His Superman Theme captures the essence of the character beautifully, and the rest of the score – even Margot Kidder’s awkward spoken word love poem – is outstanding.

Coate:  Where does the Superman score rank among John Williams' body of work?

Matessino:  Superman is certainly one of John Williams’ most indelible works.  Obviously the main theme is masterful, but so is the love theme.  It’s romantic but very modern, very cosmopolitan.  His choices for scoring the Krypton and Smallville sequences are incredibly sensitive and on target.  The score came in the midst of a very prolific period that included the original Star Wars trilogy and his first projects with Steven Spielberg, and Superman certainly stands equally among them.  It remains one of my favorites of his entire body of work.

Scivally:  It’s in my Top Three, along with Star Wars and Dracula (1979).

Coate:  There have been numerous Superman soundtrack albums released. What are the pros and cons of each release?

Matessino:  All the releases have merit. In 1978 we originally got a very generous double LP set, but which still left off some of the major pieces of the score, notably the music for Superman’s first appearance when he rescues Lois from the crashed helicopter.  When that album came out on CD, two tracks were dropped on the U.S. version, so it was necessary to track down the Japanese release to get the complete album.  In the late ‘90s the score was re-recorded, so it was great to have another take on it, and shortly after that came the Rhino 2-CD set that I worked on, which featured a lot of music that had not been previously released.  I later got to revisit the material in 2007, which was after new source elements turned up.  That came out as part of a box set which did very well and is the best sounding version of the original film’s score.

Coate:  Superman was made in a mixture of styles and tone, particularly with respect to the direction, acting and cinematography.  Is this an asset or detriment to the overall effectiveness of the movie?

Matessino:  It works for me because that’s the character’s experience.  We’re introduced to his place of origin, a truly alien world and then his life experience, which is rural Americana and then the world’s biggest, most bustling city.  This is contrasted by the villain Lex Luthor, who is arrogant and feels in control of that world.  The changes in tone and photographic approach reflect this.  Life changes its look and its tone, after all. It made the movie feel more real and relatable. 

Scivally:  Despite the reservations I had on first seeing it, I can now appreciate the way the movie switches tones from the Krypton scenes to the Smallville scenes to the Metropolis scenes.  If they had kept up the solemnity of the Krypton scenes throughout, the movie might have ended up being overly dark, as I feel today’s modern superhero movies are.  And especially with Superman, who is a character who represents light and goodness and the best qualities we have inside us, audiences should be able to have some fun in the theater.  Batman – that’s a different story.

Coate:  This movie was made during an era where there were very few movies of its type being made.  These days, it seems every other week a new superhero or comic book-inspired movie is released.  What did Donner's Superman do well that its previous incarnations, sequels, imitators and reboots have not?

Matessino:  For me, what Donner’s film did is reach beyond non-comic book readers to all potential viewers, young and old, and to everyone who enjoyed going to the movies.  It didn’t require you to have any experience with the character prior to that.  The other thing it did, rather boldly, was set it in the real world of the late 1970s.  It was not really stylized in any way.  What they shot on the streets of New York felt like the exact same city as Taxi Driver.  The movie’s famous tagline was “You’ll believe a man can fly” and it delivered that not only through its groundbreaking effects but by placing Superman in a world that was familiar and that felt very real.   Some of the latter day entries in the genre do this in their own way, but for me nothing comes close to the sense of realism that the first Superman achieved.  Think about how hard it is to pull off a character in a costume like that and have an audience accept it.  You can either make the world completely fantastic and stylized so that he doesn’t stand out…or you can do the tough work of figuring out how to get the script, the cast, the look and the tone exactly right so that this character can speak to a pimp before he stops a falling helicopter, and then crowds in the street applaud the arrival of a true hero.

Bruce Scivally

Scivally:  As I said earlier, Donner’s Superman was the first superhero movie to be made like a serious Hollywood epic.  Prior to the late 1970s, if you set out to make a superhero film, it would be considered a “B” movie – at best – and be done with a small budget, like Warner Bros.’ previous Doc Savage film.  Superman was a game changer.  After Superman, studios realized that if they took these films seriously, so would audiences, and the box-office rewards could be astronomical.  As a result, by the 1990s, there had been a flip-flop in film budgeting.  Movies that – in the early 70s – would have been considered “B” films were now “A” films with “A” budgets, and films that would have been considered “A” movies were now being done as “B” films with smaller budgets, if at all.  In terms of other Superman films, what Donner – and Tom Mankiewicz – got right is that Superman is, at heart, an innocent with super powers.  Superman Returns and Man of Steel, in my estimation, were misfires, trying too hard to give a dark inner turmoil to the character.  He ain’t Batman, but since The Dark Knight was, for a while, the second highest-grossing film in history, moviemakers keep trying to turn him into a conflicted Batman-type character.

Coate:  Where does Superman rank among director Richard Donner's body of work?

Matessino: Donner would be lauded for the film even if he had not directed any others.  But certainly it’s one of several for which he will be remembered along with The Omen, The Goonies and Lethal Weapon.  He was obviously the perfect director for Superman and I think its success played a role in the longevity of the character.

Scivally:  When I think of Richard Donner, three films immediately come to mind: The Omen, Superman and Lethal Weapon.  For me, Superman is his best film.

Coate:  Mike, what was the objective with the Superman CD soundtrack projects?

Matessino:  The Rhino release came at a time when that label was putting out their own releases of scores that had pop culture impact.  The goal with that release was to include as much previously unreleased music as we could find at the time.  On the Film Score Monthly box set, we wanted to create a definitive collection of music from the four films featuring Christopher Reeve.  The inclusion of Ron Jones’ music from the 1988 animated series (which used John Williams’ theme) turned it into an 8-disc set that encompassed a full decade of music for the character.  The complete scores for Superman II and Superman III were part of it along with the first ever release of music for Superman IV, which was itself quite a revelation, a really epic work done by longtime Williams friend and collaborator Alexander Courage.  The whole thing was a very satisfying project to work on and one of which I’m very proud.

Coate:  Bruce, what was the objective with your Superman book?

Scivally:  I wrote Superman on Film, Television, Radio and Broadway basically because I wanted an excuse to immerse myself in researching Superman on film and TV.  In this instance, “researching” means watching all of the movies and TV shows again, which was a joy for me.  But as I watched them, I began to see that each generation has its own interpretation of Superman, so in writing the book I tried to place the TV shows and films in a cultural context, while also cramming in as much detail as possible about the behind-the-scenes decisions that went into the making of them.  And, at the time I began writing, there hadn’t yet been a book that looked at the totality of Superman in popular culture; there were books on the George Reeves series, and Kirk Alyn’s biography, and books about the Broadway show and the “lost” pilots for Superboy and Superpup, but there wasn’t a book that covered all of it in one volume.  I’d like to revisit it in a couple of years, to write about the Superman films and TV incarnations that have come along since 2006.

Coate:  What is the legacy of Superman, the character in general and the 1978 movie in particular?

Matessino:  Superman is the ultimate immigrant story.  When Superman flies over the Earth at the end of the picture, with that grand score playing, it's the character now claiming this place as his home.  He has become fully part of a place that was originally foreign to him and has figured out his place in it.  Of course it has overtones of the stories of Moses and Jesus and so it is overflowing with mythic resonance.  All of that comes out in the 1978 film without it feeling heavy handed.  It came out at the perfect time because prior to that things were campier and in later decades we moved toward making things darker and more complex.  In the 1970s movies felt very real and yet it was acceptable at the time to put the tongue into the cheek here and there and have a little fun with it.  But underneath it all is a basic story that we can all relate to that has to do with wondering about our origins, looking at our formative experiences, and figuring out a way to let the selfless, heroic part of ourselves express itself in our lives.  If you had to pick one incarnation of Superman where all of this is codified definitively, it’s Superman: The Movie.

Scivally:  As a character, Superman is a symbol of what is best about human character; he really does represent truth and justice, and at one time – when the phrase had only positive connotations – the American Way.  Superman – the movie – was a major game-changer in Hollywood.  And I do believe Ilya Salkind, its producer, should get credit for seeing that a comic book character, treated with respect, can connect with a mass audience.  Had he not had that vision and pursued it, we wouldn’t have any of the superhero movies we have today; they’d still be “TV material.”

 

SOURCES/REFERENCES:

The information contained in this article was principally referenced from newspaper and film industry trade publications, reviews and theater advertisements.

 

SPECIAL THANKS:

Jerry Alexander, Al Alvarez, Neil S. Bulk, Raymond Caple, Nick DiMaggio, Bill Gabel, Steve Kraus, Bill Kretzel, Mark Lensenmayer, Mike Matessino, Tim O’Neill, Tim Reed, Bruce Scivally, John Stewart, Allen Swords, Joel Weide, Keith Wondra, Vince Young, and a very special thank-you to all of the librarians who helped with the research for this project.

- Michael Coate

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