It's by no means unusual for a successful film to spawn imitations, along with the inevitable official sequels, prequels, remakes, and re-imaginings...happens all the time. So it was that the phenomenon that was Rocky inspired music impresario Robert Stigwood to quickly develop and produce his own urban, working class fable, optioning Nik Cohn's New York article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night" and enlisting Serpico scribe Norman Wexler to write the screenplay version of what would eventually be called Saturday Night Fever. It's fitting that Rocky director John G. Avildsen was the original helmer of Saturday Night Fever before having "creative differences" with Stigwood and star John Travolta, leading to his being replaced by John Badham during pre-production. I can only assume that the Rocky poster on Tony Manero's wall is a remnant of the production design overseen by Avildsen (additionally, there's a Serpico poster in Manero's bedroom; incidentally, Serpico is another film that Avildsen was attached to at one point). Prior to their near-collaboration on Serpico, Wexler and Avildsen teamed on Joe, another blue collar cinematic icon of the '70s, which J. Hoberman wrote about here on its 30th anniversary.
Even with that not so unusual production history in mind, it is interesting to see the mythos and cultural impact of a film, right down to the Rocky poster prominently displayed on Tony Manero's wall, so quickly and openly acknowledged and absorbed, in part, by another film; to put this in perspective Saturday Night Fever was being produced while Rocky was still in theatrical release. It's this relationship between Rocky and Saturday Night Fever, Rocky Balboa and Tony Manero, that I play with a bit in this short video essay:
Continuing this Balboa - Manero strand, Rocky writer and star and Sylvester Stallone would direct Saturday Night Fever's inferior sequel Staying Alive (complete with theme song by Stallone frere Frank).
Completing this circle, over thirty years later, Saturday Night Fever would inspire the fascinating Chilean film Tony Manero, darker and more disturbing than anything on screen in either Rocky or Saturday Night Fever.