Tim Burton’s Batman 1989 Movie Scores at the NJPAC

Standing by the Batman in Concert sign

It was 1989. I was sitting in a theater in Nanuet, NY with my buddy Ethan ready to watch I’m Gonna Git You Sucka.

No, I wasn’t really a fan of the Wayans Brothers. Nor did I have any desire to see this comedy. Like at all.

So why did my best friend and I shell out a few bucks for a movie we didn’t even want to see?

It sure wasn’t for the popcorn or sticky floors. Nope. It was for one very specific reason: the premiere of the Batman 1989 movie!

Hard to believe but yes, there was a time before the internet. It was when movie trailers were actually shown in theaters first and only later on TV. And if a movie was big enough, word would spread early. Which is exactly what happened here.

See, my entire high school career was building up to this moment. Yeah, I was a comic book geek back before it was cool. I wore Batman T-shirts all the time and talked about this new Batman movie that was coming out soon by Tim Burton.  (Shockingly, I was never stuffed in any lockers.)

Nobody really gave it much thought at the time. But for me and my friends, it was everything. Comics hadn’t had a real movie since the Christopher Reeve Superman films.

Our only glimpses at the film were in dribs and drabs of photos in various magazines. There were no on-set leaks. No extras snapping pics with their iPhones. No official movie websites.

So trust me when I say that seeing the Tim Burton Batman movie trailer for the first time was life changing for me. The second the screen went black and all you saw were flames shooting out of a slick black Batmobile was when I knew this was really happening.

Batman 1989 in Concert

Batman 1989 in Concert logo

Yes, I did see Batman in theaters when it came out. Multiple times for sure. So it’s only fitting that I celebrated its 35th anniversary by watching it once again on the big screen with Ethan.

This was no ordinary screening though. This was Batman in Concert! A special one-night-only event at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. The original film was shown with the score being replaced by a live performance from the New Jersey Symphony led by conductor James Olmstead.

I’ve never been to one of these before but have always seen similar ones promoted for Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. I really didn’t know what to expect but was blown away by the overall experience.

I thought it’d be a small event with a little orchestra playing along with the movie and that’d be it. But the NJPAC did a great job of hosting the Dark Knight. In fact, before we even entered the building, Batman himself was standing in front of a decked-out Bat-car. He apparently had some time for photo ops before chasing down the Joker.

Posing with Batman

Much like the guards at Buckingham Palace, Ethan and I couldn’t get the Caped Crusader to crack a smile.

The New Jersey Symphony

After making it inside, Ethan and I settled into our seats. I could see the symphony members readying themselves for the show. Soon the first chair came out for a quick tuning and bow, followed by the conductor.

The lights dimmed.

The conductor’s baton lifted.

And just as the screen went dark and began showing the WB logo, the familiar Danny Elfman score flowed from the instruments on stage.

It was really cool watching both a symphonic concert and a Michael Keaton movie at the same time. I can’t tell you how often I got pulled into the storyline and completely forgot that the music was actually live.

One thing I didn’t expect, though, was such an energetic crowd. Whether it was the symphony nailing the Batman 1989 theme, Michael Keaton’s name showing up in the credits or Jack Nicholson removing his hat and declaring himself the Joker for the first time, everyone was hooting, hollering and cheering.

There was an intermission (at roughly the 1 hour, 18 minute mark), at which point I witnessed something I’d never seen before. Not even at Yankee Stadium.

We went straight to the restrooms and I was shocked to see a very long line for the Men’s room. Even crazier, there was zero line for the Women’s room.

There were also crazy lines for concessions (how could you not get a beer when watching the Bat?), and a swag booth selling Batman the Concert shirts, hats, magnets and posters.

Credits rolling

We made it back to our seats just in time. The lights dimmed and the movie started right up again.

The New Jersey Symphony really put on a tremendous show and for the first time in a very long time, the entire audience stayed seated throughout the entire credits.

It had been 35 years since I first saw Batman 1989 with Ethan. And now I can’t wait another 15 years to mark the 50th anniversary together.

Watching the Batman 1989 movie at NJPAC

View other DC in Concert Performances

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