Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but in Virginia the man of steel has been unable to get off the ground.
Warner Bros.' new film, "Superman," which has opened in Cities across the country, has yet to appear in Virigina -- the first casualty of a 6-month-old state law banning so-called "blind biddling" by local theater operators.
Under the practice, the operators compete by offering financial guarantees to a film's national distributor, without having viewed the film first. Virigina is one of five states to outlaw the practice.
"My kinds were so upet they were going to boycott "Watership Down,'" said Virginia Attorney, General J. Marshall Coleman, father of four. "I told them the reason the movie couldn't be shown in Richmond was because they found kryptonite in the James River."
A Warner Bros.' spokesman said yesterday that "Superman" will open Jan 26 in Virginia, more than a month after the film's official debut.
"'Superman' is being used to punish Virginia," said Del. Alan Diamonstein (D-Newport News), chief patron of the blind-bidding tatue that went into effect July 1. "The film companies indicated at that time that there would be a movie we wouldn't get in the future. Sometimes we have to suffer small indignities to protect the people."
But Robert Friendman, Warner Bros.' project executive for "Superman" which cost between $35 million to $40 million t omake danied that Virginia had been single d out for punishment" and said the film was not retady for viewing until Dec. 10.
"If anythign, we're punishing ourselves," he said. "It costs us money to go into a state to promote a film which has already opened."
Friedman said the only other state where "Superman" has not been shown is Louisiana, which joined Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina and Ohio in banning blind bidding.
Paul Roth, owner of 15 movie theaters in Virginia, said yesterday, "Warner Bros. said they did not have a print of "Superman' for us to look at, so we could not negotiate for the film. I think it's a good law. It's unfair to ask someone for a commitment on a commodity you can't see in advance."
The theater owner said bills to outlaw blind bidding are expected to be introduced in 25 states this year, including Maryland, whee "Superman" is drawing patrons faster than a speeding bullet.
"Yes, the fact that we can't snow the film yet has hurt us financially," Roth said. "But then again, we could have gotten another 'King Kong.'"
Kong, a gorilla, was the star of a much-touted 1977 feature film that disappointed theater operators at the box office.