Most films don't get released immediately after they're finished, some haven't been released at al,l and there are many films that sat on the shelf for years before an audience had the chance to see them. Movies are expensive to create, and they are nearly as expensive to distribute and promote. If a studio finishes a film but runs short on cash, they have to shelf the film until they can afford to get it to a large audience. Other times, filmmakers have shown that they are notoriously fickle and may not want the project released. Whatever the reason, these eight unlucky films sat on the shelf for years.
One of the most famous recent cases of a film setting on a shelf when it should have been in a theater is this film about a group of people trying to see a film setting on a shelf. Inside the movie, that film was Star Wars: Episode One. A twist of fate caused a similar situation to occur, when real-life fanboys had to clamor and complain on the internet for three years before this film was released. It's like a case of movie-irony within a case of movie-irony!
This World War II spy thriller starring John Cusack was filmed in 2008. It ended up setting on the shelf for nearly three years before it was released on the last day of 2010. It received a lukewarm reception and did poorly at the box office, thanks in no small part to people forgetting it existed. If there was ever a case to be made for striking while the iron is hot, this film is it, although WWII isn't exactly "current events."
"Take Me Home Tonight (Kids In America)"
The eighties saw a rebirth in the new millennium not unlike the sixties did in the eighties. During the height of the revival, Topher Grace and Anna Faris shot a twenty-something comedy called "Kids In America." It sat on the shelf for years, until it was finally distributed as "Take Me Home Tonight." It didn't exactly set the world on fire, but it was a serviceable piece of cinema.
Matt Damon sells any movie he is in, so when he made "Margaret" in 2005 with Anna Paquin and director Kenneth Lonergan it should have been a no-brainer to get it in front of an audience. Mr. Lonergan wasn't happy with the film, so legalities caused the film to sit on the shelf for almost six years before it finally found a limited release. That may be the last time that "Matt Damon" and "limited release" are ever uttered together.
"A Thousand Words"
The story behind "A Thousand Words," the Eddie Murphy comedy filmed in 2008, is a fitting analogy for divorcing parents. In the film's case, the squabblers were DreamWorks, Paramount and Viacom. They settled their differences, and after it sat on the shelf for years "A Thousand Words" was finally given a release date for March, 2012. A prime example of the grown-up's arguments damaging the little kids.
"Red Dawn" is a classic film from the eighties, and the Earth shivered a bit when it was announced it would be remade in 2008. Hollywood took no notice of the Earth, and the film was completed a year later. MGM then had money problems and stuck it on the shelf. The star, Chris Hemsworth, went from being a barely known to the star of a Marvel franchise (Thor). When it finally gets released at the end of 2012, that should help sell some tickets.
"The Plot Against Harry"
Films will often sit on a shelf for months, and we've shown that years isn't out of the question, but "The Plot Against Harry "is one film that sat on the shelf for decades. Two decades, to be more precise. Filmed in 1969 with a cast of people you've probably never heard of, "The Plot Against Harry" was finally screened in 1990 at the Cannes Film Festival. People like it-a lot. Perhaps if it was released when it was supposed to be, some careers could have been created.
"I Love Lucy"
The "I Love Lucy" film has the distinction of being one of the longest shelf-setting movies in the history of shelf-sitting movies. Created in 1953, the film was three episodes of the popular television series sewn together with new footage. MGM decided not to release it after all, and it sat on a shelf for almost 50 years before it enjoyed a single test screening in 2001. Since then it has been released on DVD, but it still hasn't seen an official theatrical release and it probably never will.