Up in the Sky... It's the 'Superman' Budget!

Superman is returning! And he's really expensive. Humorist Brian Unger puzzles over why Time Warner is spending somewhere in excess of $350 million to produce, distribute and market the superhero epic — and why the CNN cash cow will be paying for it all.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Superman returns on Wednesday. That's the movie, Superman Returns! Our own superhero of humor, Brian Unger, has been thinking about how much is it costing to bring back the Man of Steel. Here's today's Unger Report.

BRIAN UNGER reporting:

It's not polite to stare at people, but have you seen the new Superman? No, not Karl Rove. The guy I'm talking about actually looks good in tights.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. KEVIN SPACEY (Actor): (As Lex Luther): Tell me everything.

Mr. FRANK LANGELLA (Actor): (As Perry White) Does he still stand for truth, justice, all that stuff?

UNGER: Still stands for truth, justice, and all that stuff, but also for big, big price inflation in the making of blockbuster movies. The last four times Superman was here on earth, he cost the studio that paid his way, Warner Brothers, around $50 million each time. This return trip is raising some eyebrows.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. BRANDON ROUTH (Actor): (As Superman) There are some people asking a lot of questions now that I'm back. I think it's only fair that I answer those people.

UNGER: Superman Returns is costing Warner Brothers over $350 million.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

FRANK LANGELLA (As Perry White): I want to know it all, everything. Olson, I want to see photos of him everywhere.

UNGER: And marketing Superman will presumably push his price higher. So who pays for the new Superman? His fans?

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. SPACEY: (As Lex Luthor) Wrong!

UNGER: People who watch CNN. Naturally. It's possible people who even hate blockbuster movies and love only Wolf Blitzer paid for the new Superman movie.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. MARLON BRANDO (Actor): (As Jor-El) Even though you've been raised as a human being, you're not one of them.

UNGER: CNN and Superman. They are produced by the same corporation, and without CNN's $304 million profit last year, Time Warner wouldn't be able to gamble more than that on one movie this year. This is why it's vital America watch Anderson Cooper interview Angelina Jolie, so Superman can fly again.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. SPACEY: (As Lex Luthor) Wait for it.

UNGER: Elsewhere, it is NBC News that will help pay for parent Universal's new movies. ABC News will feed the costs of its parent, Disney, and CBS News, where it once helped pay for Paramount's movies, will now pay for its own movies, as was just announced by CBS CEO and President, Les Moonves, who says he wants to get into the movie business.

If the current trend persists, next year the Oscar could go to an action movie produced by C-SPAN.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. SPACEY: (As Lex Luthor) Come with me. You're not going to want to miss this.

UNGER: The corporatization of news and its effects on news content all deserve more attention, more discussion, and more passionate debate. Those were the most overlooked parting words from one of the last supermen of news, Dan Rather, as he left CBS, where he'd spent 44 years working. Rather then added, I'll see you soon.

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. SPACEY: (As Lex Luthor) So long, Superman.

UNGER: Could it be that the more we flock to $200 million dollar blockbusters, the fewer reporters and less news we'll have in our democracy?

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Unidentified Woman (Actress): (As Character) The world can always use more good reporters.

UNGER: But why pay for more good reporters and their news when corporations like Time-Warner can instead make Superman return again and again and again? I mean, in the end, what and who is really going to save us?

(Soundbite of movie "Superman Returns")

Mr. BRANDO: (As Jor-El) I have sent them you, my only son.

UNGER: And that is today's Unger Report. I'm Brian Unger.

CHADWICK: Humorist Brian Unger. We're not really sure if Brian is part of the problem or the solution, but in the spirit of full disclosure, we should add that in addition to his weekly contributions to our program, Mr. Unger occasionally works with the cable network MSNBC.

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