Warner Bros. Celebrating Batman's 75th Anniversary With 'Batman Exhibit'

 Jordan Riefe

With Batman not due to hit the big screen again until 2016, Warner Bros. is not about to let another year go by without spotlighting one of its biggest franchises. In fact, this year conveniently marks the Caped Crusader’s 75th anniversary, an occasion the studio is taking full advantage of during a summer movie season that saw no D.C. comic characters at the box office.

D.C. Comics has declared today, July 23, as "Batman Day," working in conjunction with thousands of comic retailers who will be hosting celebrations.

The occasion is also marked by new issue and reissue items ranging from home entertainment to memorabilia, as well as the Batman-centric Gotham, a new drama from Fox due later this year.

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And just in time for tourist season, Warner Bros. VIP Studio Tour is opening "The Batman Exhibit"  for a limited run through the summer. It features Batmobiles, costumes and props from all seven movies in the same place for the first time ever.

Danny DeVito, who played the Penguin in Tim Burton’s 1992 movie, Batman Returns, was on hand June 26 to flip the switch on a commemorative Bat Signal to open the show. "If I light the Bat Signal isn’t that loony Batman gonna come out!" he growled, slipping into character. "I don’t want the Bat in here!"

The show is split over two locations, the first being a gallery exhibiting mainly costumes and props. You’ll find dueling Jokers in Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger, or a series of evolving cowls worn by various incarnations of the Bat running from Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer, George Clooney and of course Christian Bale.

"The fragile piece in here is the Michelle Pfeiffer cat woman costume," Warner Bros.' Danny Kahn tells The Hollywood Reporter. "And you can even see a little bit of wear on the original Michael Keaton Batman costume."

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The second portion of the exhibit is a shuttle ride away to the picture car vault. Culled from studio archives, it was an easy show to assemble as nearly everything from the movies has been preserved over the years. In fact, the show’s curators faced an embarrassment of riches making their toughest decision what not to include.

The Redbird, the motorcycle Chris O’Donnell rode as Robin in Batman & Robin, took some work to get the neon lights firing, but the Tumbler, the Batmobile designed by Christopher Nolan and production designer Nathan Crowley, started up immediately.

According to Kahn, the Tumbler, which Nolan describes as a mix between a Lamborghini and a Humvee, was custom-fabricated with a 350-cubic inch Chevy engine. It can go from 0 to 60 mph in 5 seconds, and can jump as far as 30 feet.

"It’s an over-engineered car that’s been tested to do specific crashes and jumps over and over again so they can rely on it on the shooting days," says Kahn about the prototype, which cost approximately $250,000. "In interviews, Christopher Nolan said there is nothing he would have done differently about the design of the Tumbler."

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Batman made his first appearance in The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, published in Detective Comics #27 on March 30, 1939. Robin appeared a year later and the dynamic duo became a comic book staple, building a devoted following through the decades. In fact, a copy of the original comic sold in 2012 for $1.7 million. The movie franchise, begun in 1989, has earned roughly $3.8 billion in worldwide box office sales alone, not including merchandising and other ancillary markets.

"We’re just so fortunate that we have this amazing team at Warner archives," said Kahn, looking giddy among all the exotic Bat vehicles. "I’m just thankful that we can show them all."

Click here to see five photos from the exhibit.

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