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It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's 'Superman' on Hold Again

April 17, 1998|AMY WALLACE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Concerned about a ballooning budget and a script that "wasn't good enough," according to one executive, Warner Bros. Studios on Thursday put its "Superman" project on indefinite hold.

The postponement is the third such production delay on the film, to be directed by Tim Burton ("Batman") and starring Nicolas Cage. Based on a series of comic book episodes about the death and rebirth of the mild-mannered superhero, the film had originally been slated to premiere this summer.

Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Warner's president of worldwide theatrical production, said the latest delay was necessary in order to do justice to the "Superman" franchise, which originally debuted in 1978 with Christopher Reeve as the man of steel.

"The script wasn't good enough," he said, though he stressed that the studio is "very happy" with Burton and his current team of writers. "When you're trying to live up to something that is such an important asset to this company, you set a very high standard. We felt we had to raise the bar."

Di Bonaventura said raising the bar, however, should not mean raising the film's budget. On the contrary, he called the current budget--which he would not disclose--"too high."

This is not the first sign of fiscal conservatism at the major movie studios. Last month, Fox 2000 put on hold director Jan De Bont's "Ghost Riders in the Sky," a $100-million-plus event picture described as a sci-fi Western.

In March, Universal halted "Hulk," its big-screen adaptation of the Marvel Comics series, which was said to be budgeted at $100 million. A few weeks later, Warner Bros. pulled the plug on "I Am Legend," an action film that was to star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The studio reportedly was pressuring the director, Ridley Scott, to bring the film's budget in below $100 million.

"Every studio is acutely conscious of how much the negative cost of their films are. We're not alone," di Bonaventura said.

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