Batman was absent throughout the 70s and into the 80s. In the 1970s, Batman's popularity was on the decline and DC were seriously considering axing one if it's flagship comics. In the early 70s, CBS considered the idea of making a Batman in Space movie. Michael Uslan purchased the rights to Batman in 1979 and planned to make a new movie based on how dark and gritty Batman should have been. Richard Maibaum was attached to writing the projectm, with Guy Hamilton in the director;s chair. Uslan pitched the movie and script to several studios, but was however turned down as many places wanted a campy, comedic Batman much like the 1966 Batman, as they believed a gritty and dark Batman wouldn't sell as a movie. Columbia and United Artists were among the studios that turned down the project.
Shortly after this, Uslan returned to writing a Batman movie. He came up with an idea called "Return of the Dark Knight" which would predate The Dark Knight Returns by 6 years. Uslan teamed up with Jon Peters and Casablanca Film Works to create the project, with a budget of $20 million. They based the production of the movie on that of the very successful Superman movie. The announcement was made at the 1980 Comic Art Show, however, not long after this announcement, Casablanca was absorbed into Polygram The producers left Polygram in 1982 with the legal rights to Batman and took it to Warner, where it was deemed successful enough to be made into a movie.
With the rights secured and the promise of a new movie, Batman's future in the world of motion pictures seemed to be making headway again. In 1983, Tom Mankiewicz completed a script called The Batman, The movie would have been based on the story called Strange Apparitions from 1977. It would have dealt with Batman and Robin's origins, introduced Joker and Rupert Thorne as villains and Silver St. Cloud as the love interest. Among the cast, were an unknown as Batman, William Holden as Commissioner Gordon, David Niven as Alfred and Peter O'Toole as Penguin. Sadly, William Holden had died in 1981 and David Niven had died in 1983, so the project was scrapped.
After this project had died, both Ivan Reitman and Joe Dante were attached to direct a movie of Strange Apparitions based on Mankiewicz's script. Among the names thrown into the hat were Bill Murray as Batman with Michael J. Fox as Robin. Sadly, none of these projects would come to pass and we wouldn't see another Batman movie until 1989