John Frankenheimer was able to secure permission from Goodyear to use its blimp in the film because of his relationship with the company's public relations department from making Grand Prix (1966). He had to promise that the blimp itself would not kill anybody - for example, that no one would be torn up in its propellers. In addition, the pilot was changed from a Goodyear employee to a freelance pilot only hired by Goodyear. Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie got the NFL to allow extensive filming at a real Super Bowl game and the use of copyrighted team names and logos. Additional footage of the stampede at the game was shot at the Orange Bowl after the game with thousands of extras provided for free by The United Way. In exchange for providing the extras, Frankenheimer agreed to direct a short film for them with star Robert Shaw narrating it.
The movie was one of the Paramount Pictures studio's highest ever pre-release scoring films from test screenings. Paramount were positioning the movie to be the blockbuster picture of 1977, many industry insiders predicted the film to be going to be as big a box-office hit as Jaws (1975). However, upon release, the film did not perform as well as expected and instead Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) became the biggest blockbuster movie of 1977.
Three Goodyear blimps are used in the film, one based in Miami, Florida one in Houston, Texas and one in Los Angeles, California. The names of the blimps were "Mayflower" (N1A),"America" (N10A), and "Columbia" (N3A) respectively. The Super Bowl scenes were shot in Miami; the Texas shoot was a short scene filmed in Spring, Texas; whilst the hijack and landing scenes were shot at Goodyear airship base in Carson, California.
At least some parts of the climatic scene were filmed after the Superbowl, including shots of the nose of the blimp coming onto the field as extras ran about wildly. Only the front portion of the blimp and gondola were recreated for this "head-on" shot and the whole thing was controlled by a crane.
Thomas Harris has said in a new introduction to the film's source novel that the character of terrorist Dahlia Iyad was a precursor and early inspiration for the character of Clarice Starling who appears in his novel of The Silence of the Lambs (1991).
The film from Paramount Pictures is considered part of the 1970s cycle of Hollywood Disaster Movies. A year before , the Universal Pictures studio released the similarly themed Two-Minute Warning (1976) which instead of a terrorist plot at the Super Bowl had a sniper threat. The 1977 year saw Universal also produce Rollercoaster (1977) with bomb caused accidents at amusement parks. Moreover, a line of dialogue in Two-Minute Warning (1976) referred to "Sudden Death" in the football game, Sudden Death (1995) also being the title of the Universal's similarly themed later 90s disaster movie where a terrorist plot threatens an ice-hockey match.
On 3rd February 2002, around twenty-five years after this movie was made, and within six months of "September 11" (2001), the US Department of Homeland Security officially made the Super Bowl (which is the major sports match threatened by terrorists in this film) to be a National Special Security Event (NSSE). This is defined by Wikipedia as being "an event of national or international significance deemed by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to be a potential target for terrorism or other criminal activity".
Although it had been screened on UK network television many times, the BBC screening on Sunday, February 3, 2002 provoked a storm of protest. The film was scheduled for late night (post 11.00pm) showing in a time slot directly opposite another UK cable networks coverage of Superbowl XXXVII. Less that 5 months after 9/11 many people felt that it was highly insensitive to show a film about a terrorist attack on the Superbowl the same night that the actual Superbowl was being played.
The movie's source novel was inspired from the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics Games as co-ordinated by the Black September organization. The title "Black Sunday" references "Black September". Harris wrote the novel after seeing the hostage crisis on television. These real-life events became the subject of the Academy Award (Oscar) Winning documentary One Day in September (1999).
The complete unreleased soundtrack of the film's score was not released on CD until January 2010. Remixed from the original 16-track 2" masters recorded on the Paramount Pictures scoring stage, a limited run of 10,000 discs were manufactured by Film Score Monthly. Up until this time, this was the only complete John Williams feature film score which had gone unreleased.
Company Good year only allowed the use of their airship fleet of blimps but not their logo with the "Goodyear Wingfoot" (which features on the side of their blimps_ for any advertising or promotional materials. As such, on all marketing materials, the words "Super Bowl" are seen instead.
The Australian VHS sleeve notes state on the rear-cover that the stadium contains 80,000 spectators yet on the same video slick's front cover, the poster's tag-lines boasts 100,000 people at the arena.
In the biography "John Frankenheimer: A Conversation With Charles Champlin", Frankenheimer maintains that he helped persuade Goodyear to let him used their blimps because if they refused, the production would rent a large blimp from Germany, paint it silver-and-black, whereby people would think it was a Good Year blimp anyway.
As Dahlia Iyad (Keller) concludes recording her message for citizens of the USA, she says "shalom aleichem" which is a typical Jewish greeting; being Muslim it would seem more appropriate for her to say "as salamu alaykum". Both phrases translate roughly to "Peace be upon you."