Getting Tim Burton's 1989 Batman onto the big screen was a long and arduous process. Ten years before Michael Keaton made his debut as the Caped Crusader, producers Benjamin Melnicker and Michael Uslan acquired the film rights to Batman so they could adapt the character in the same vein as Warner Bros.' Superman series. They wanted to have a "definitive, dark, serious version of Batman" on film, and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber agreed when they boarded the project in November 1979. Four years later, the producers finally had their script, titled The Batman. Written by Tom Mankiewicz, the story focused on Batman and Robin's origins, with the Joker as the central villain.
Over the next few years, several writers and directors, including Joe Dante and Ivan Reitman, were approached for the project, with each filmmaker bringing their own ideas to the table. In the end, thanks to the success of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, the studio hired Tim Burton to direct. Burton felt the existing treatment was too similar to Superman and would be better fitted for a TV series, so he changed virtually every aspect of the movie. While they didn't get everything they wanted, the producers still got their dark, albeit campy, version of Batman on the silver screen. It just took a decade to make it happen.
Technically, the studio never canceled The Batman, though it changed hands so many times that the story, and the production, became almost unrecognizable along the way. Plus, it's the nature of Hollywood to repurpose old ideas into new ones. For instance, the inspiration for the first Batman film came from Superman: The Movie, while the inspiration for Smallville came from a canceled Bruce Wayne TV series. See? Hollywood loves to recycle ideas.