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Examining The Profound Impact Of ‘Beetlejuice’ On Its 30th Anniversary

30 years ago today, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice was released in theaters. The comedy/horror/fantasy film starring Winona Ryder, Alex Baldwin, Geena Davis, and—of course—Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice has a ton of fans and is unquestionably a cult classic. Beetlejuice is something only Tim Burton could have pulled off, and people could go on all day about how much they loved (or hated) the movie. But on this 30th anniversary, we are looking at the impact Beetlejuice had more so than the actual movie itself.


Back in the 1980s, there was some momentum towards a Batman film, but it wasn’t getting off the ground enough to actually happen. Finally, after Burton’s success with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, Warner Bros. gave the director an opportunity to write a Batman script. Sounds very weird today, but it’s true.


However, Warner Bros. wasn’t giving the full OK to start production on a Batman movie—not until the huge success of Beeetlejuice. The rest, is history.


Batman was greenlit by Warner Bros., and Burton was able to make a dark, gritty, and somewhat fantasy-like movie about the Caped Crusader. The Gotham City created by Burton had amazing architecture and was a perfect setting.


From there, Burton’s Batman and Gotham City led to wild hype and popularity. “Batmania” was a real thing, and Batman was suddenly the coolest thing in the world during the late 1980s.


Before Burton created his Batman film, the superhero was at his low-point in popularity. Batman was struggling mightily before Batman, and now he’s perhaps the most popular character of all-time.


“Batmania” led to so much success, not only in the boosting of the character into most people’s pick as the greatest superhero, but commercially. Warner Bros. sold hundreds of millions of dollars in merchandise before the film was even released—estimated at minimum of $500 million and perhaps upwards of $750 million. And the box office did another $411 million as Batman was a must-see summer blockbuster if there ever was one.


The unprecedented and stunning success of Batman led to Batman Returns, which lived up to the hype of the first film and was arguably even better. (We’ll just attempt to ignore the next few Batman films after Batman Returns.)


Without Batman and Batman Returns, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy might have never happened. Obviously, those movies were a huge success and are considered the gold standard for superhero films. The success of Warner Bros. and their films led to Disney attempting to do the same with Marvel.


The Dark Knight trilogy, which is dark and realistic, probably would not have been possible without Tim Burton laying the groundwork with the classic 1989 Batman, which might not have ever been greenlit if it wasn’t for Beetlejuice.


Without Beetlejuice would “Batmania” have ever been a thing? Would there be all these superhero movies, including the all-time classic The Dark Knight trilogy? Would Marvel be as successful as it is? And would Disney (who owns Marvel) as a whole be as successful as it is? Would Disney have been able—or wanted to—purchase Lucasfilm, i.e. the rights to Star Wars without the success of relatively similar superhero films?


Wherever you stand on Beetlejuice on its 30th anniversary, the enormous impact it has made on the film industry—and society as a whole, including so many of us—is undeniable.


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