An R-rated Batman?


For, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ opens next month and there aren’t many movies lighting up online discussion boards more. Which got me thinking about Time Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’ and all the hype that surrounded it. So here are excerpts from a pair of Deseret News ‘Hicks on Flicks’ columns published before and after the film played.

Batman rated R? (April 30, 1989): Few questions have been posed to me as frequently in recent weeks as this one: “Is ‘Batman’ going to be rated R?”

That seems to have been prompted by the trailer (theatrical preview) for the film, which shows Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) and his archenemy the Joker (Jack Nicholson) involved in all kinds of mayhem.

But let’s remember how much violence there was in the PG-rated “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Return of the Jedi” and “Jaws,” among others.

Would Warner Bros. seriously consider making “Batman” an R-rated film when the vast majority of its potential audience is young people?


Michael Keaton as 'Batman,' with Jack Nicholson as the Joker

Not if it wants a $100 million-plus hit — and it does. Especially in light of the film reportedly going way over budget.

So, just to put a few young minds at ease, I put in a call to Warners representatives and was assured “Batman” is going for a PG-13 rating, which would be for violence.

“Batman” opens nationwide June 23. Stay tuned.

CBS shells out $20 million for ‘Batman’ (Dec. 3, 1989): Tired of all the Bat-Talk?

To review, we know that Jack Nicholson has a huge percentage of both the movie “Batman” and the merchandising for the film, and that his personal take is estimated at somewhere around $60 million.

And we know that “Batman” is destined to become the No. 1 video seller of all time, having racked up a record 15 million copies in preorder sales.

We also know that the sequel to “Batman” is imminent, probably to begin production early next year, though we don’t know for sure who will be in the cast or whether Robin will appear or which of the many goofball villains the caped one will be battling.

But there is another bit of news on the “Batman” front.

The film has been sold to commercial television, reportedly to be aired around May 1991, about the time the sequel is scheduled to appear in theaters.


             Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, 'Batman'

Now here’s the amazing part: According to the Hollywood Reporter, CBS purchased the film for $20 million.

Twenty million bucks!

The day after the Hollywood Reporter story ran a network spokeswoman denied the cost, but that denial didn’t carry much weight since she declined to say just how much the network did pay. So we can assume it was something close to $20 million anyway.

What makes this sale strange is that TV networks hardly ever pay more than $2 million to $3 million for any theatrical film, especially since ratings for even the most popular movies have been slipping in recent years, due to inroads made by video and cable.

And this sale apparently doesn’t provide anything special for the network. The movie will still play on cable long before mid-1991. And when you think about it, even a cable purchase seems like a weak deal since the current video sell-through price is so low that most anyone who wants the film will have it long before it hits TV in any form.

True, “Batman” has earned more than $250 million in American revenues theatrically and is racking up even more in video sales right now, which means it’s one of the most popular films of all time. But why in the world would anyone want to watch the movie on TV with commercials interrupting every 10 minutes? It’s so readily available without that inconvenience.

There might be the possibility of adding extra footage from outtakes, scenes that were deleted before the film’s release, which has become a common network practice to pad out a film’s length. And certainly in this case that would attract a load of bat-fans who just can’t get enough of the caped crusader. But even that seems unlikely, since director Tim Burton said in the November issue of Cinefantastique magazine that every scene he shot is in the film.

So what’s the answer? Why did CBS shell out so much — whether it’s $20 million or something shy of that amount – for “Batman”?

Maybe Warner Bros. has turned all its negotiations over to Jack Nicholson — since he’s the guy who knows how to get the sweetest deal.