The most influential and beloved superhero movie ever premiered 44 years ago today

Christopher Reeve as Superman 1978
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

On Dec. 10, 1978, Superman: The Movie had its presidential premiere in Washington, D.C.

Four decades ago, the Man of Steel’s feature film debut was one of the most highly anticipated movies to ever hit theaters. To commemorate the occasion, the filmmakers rolled out the red carpet with a series of high-profile premieres. Spanning six cities in four days, Superman was given the star treatment, opening with a prestige rarely seen at that time.

With that, movie history was made.

The tour began at the Kennedy Center with Washington’s elite, including President Jimmy Carter, coming out to see Christopher Reeve fly across the screen. The special screening was for an exclusive audience. Tickets sold for as much as $1,000 apiece as a charity to benefit the Special Olympics that raised a reported $200,000. Five days later, the movie was released nationwide.

Between film, television, and streaming, there’s no getting away from capes and spandex these days. In 1978, that was not the case. Superman was like nothing audiences had ever seen before. To this day, Reeve is still widely regarded as the standard for all Superman actors.

First appearing in 1938’s Action Comics #1, the Man of Steel had been featured in virtually every medium available. While the American icon and first costumed superhero had been in short movie serials, he had never been given his own full-length feature. To finally put him on the silver screen with an all-star cast was something worth celebrating.

The franchise would go on to produce three more films, Superman II, Superman III, and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, though they dipped in quality with each subsequent entry. It wasn’t until 1989’s Batman that Hollywood gave another superhero a chance at movie stardom. Thus, the precedent was set that big-budget superhero films were profitable. As Disney and Marvel Studios enjoy the massive success of the MCU, they can thank Superman for setting the stage.