The Shelf of Movie Languishment
The movie is finished. The cast and crew have been paid, postproduction is done, all it needs is an advertising campaign and to be sent to the theaters. Except it isn't, at least not at the speed most of its completed brethren do.
The act of being 'shelved' is one of the oddities of the movie business. There are many reasons that a completed movie is set aside; a matter of timing, dissatisfaction with the result, corporate restructuring, etc. It can last anywhere from a couple months to forever.
See Executive Meddling
and Too Soon
for major causes of this. Compare Keep Circulating the Tapes
(where the rights holders don't release copies for purchase after broadcast), Ash Can Copy
(where the work was produced only to maintain the rights and was never intended for publication), Development Hell
(where the work is never completed or takes an extraordinarily long time to complete).
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Anime & Manga
- Castle in the Sky was originally dubbed and prepared for a home video release in the US in 1998, and trailers for it appeared on various Disney video tapes. However, because of the surprise success of Kikis Delivery Service on video, Disney decided to rethink their plan for the film. They planned on releasing it in theaters first, and they re-recorded the film's musical score with the original composer. However, after the disappointment of Princess Mononoke's theatrical release, Disney once again decided to rethink how to release Castle in the Sky, and put it on hold again. The film sat on the shelf until 2003 when it was finally released by Disney on video and DVD after only being screened at a few children's festivals.
- Blue Sky. Completed in 1990, not released until 1994 due to the bankruptcy of Orion Pictures. By the time it was released, the film's director had been dead for three years.
- Ditto for the film adaptation of Car 54, Where Are You?
- And RoboCop 3, which completed production in 1991. The film was eventually released in 1993 to weak box office and scathing reviews.
- The Charlie Chaplin film Limelight was pulled from distribution after he was denied re-admittance to the US for allegedly having communist sympathies. Filmed in 1952, finally released in the U.S. in 1972. It had already been released in Europe.
- Plan 9 from Outer Space was completed in 1956, but couldn't find a distributor until 1959. That is nowhere near as bad as what happened to Ed Wood's follow-up, Night of the Ghouls, which didn't see the light of day until 1987. The reason? Ed couldn't pay to have the film developed and it was withheld by the lab.
- Miramax had a glut of films finished in the early 2000s and delayed releasing some of them for several years. Many made nowhere near the money production had cost.
- The Great Raid was one of these.
- Underclassman was another.
- Dimension Films had similar problems, Texas Rangers and My Boss's Daughter (changed from original title "The Guests") were both shelved for over a year, the former only got a limited release, though the latter managed to do decent business.
- Yuri Kara's movie adaptation of The Master and Margarita was filmed in 1994 but released in 2011, six years after that other adaptation by Vladimir Bortko.
- Me and Orson Welles premiered to great acclaim at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, but was unable to secure a distributor despite the considerble buzz and the fact that they had Zac Efron and Claire Danes as the stars. It was eventually released to perhaps a dozen theatres nationwide in November 2009 and almost promptly forgotten (it's release on DVD was even more delayed). Many fans claim that this piss-poor release strategy ended up robbing co-star Christian McKay of a well-deserved Oscar nomination for his performance as Orson Welles.
- The Nutcracker in 3D was filmed in 2007, but not released until 2010. The delay was partly to allow for the afterthought of converting it into a 3-D Movie.
- Red Tails suffered in Development Hell from the 80's until 2007, and even after it was in the can and ready to go in 2010 it took another couple years before George Lucas could find a distributor willing to take it. The reason George Lucas gave for both the decades long hell and this trope was that the cast was mostly black. Other sources claim that Lucas was demanding an unreasonably large portion of the international grosses as part of the deal.
- The classic Film Noir The Big Sleep was completed in 1944, but the studio shelved it in order to get through their backlog of war movies before WWII ended. This proved to be a very good thing. Before it was released in 1946, scenes were added to capitalize further on the obvious on-screen chemistry of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
- The remake of Red Dawn was mostly complete in 2009, but got shelved due to MGM going bankrupt. After the studio solved its financial problems - and after a Re Cut to replace the Chinese villains with North Koreans - it saw a November 2012 release date.
- The Cabin in the Woods was also a victim of MGM's collapse. It was finished in 2009, but MGM delayed to do a 3-D conversion, and then their bankruptcy forced them to abandon those plans. The film finally saw the light of day in April 2012, to critical acclaim and box-office success. (Amusingly, both films star Chris Hemsworth, who got a breakthrough role during the shelving, and had a second movie playing it the same year both hit theaters.)
- All About Steve was shot in 2007, but only got released 2 years later. (In the meantime, leading man Bradley Cooper made a name for himself and star Sandra Bullock had a comeback of sorts, and thus the studio took advantage of it. The DVD tagline is even "What if the girl from The Proposal goes after the guy from The Hangover?)
- Lucky You was shot in 2005 and not released until 2007, where it flopped at the box-office.
- Two of Eddie Murphy's films fall into this category, The Adventures of Pluto Nash was completed in 2000 but not released until 2002, A Thousand Words wrapped up in 2008 but was delayed until 2011, after some parts of the ending were re-shot, then it got delayed until 2012, where it promptly flopped and was quickly forgotten.
- Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star was completed in 2009 but not released until 2011 due to poor test screenings and Columbia having little faith in it.
- Two of Miley Cyrus's films, LOL and So Undercover were both delayed from their 2011 release dates to 2012, the former getting released to very few theaters with little promotion and barely recouping costs, while the latter was released in theaters overseas in 2012 and released Direct-To-Video in the states in early 2013.
- The Catherine Zeta-Jones film The Rebound was completed in 2009 and was released to theaters in almost every country except the U.S., then it finally got released to Amazon Instant Video in February 2012.
- Repo Men was finished in 2008 but not released until 2010.
- Phone Booth was completed in 2000 and got delayed in post-production, it was supposed to be released in 2002, but was delayed until 2003 because of the Beltway Snipers rampage.
- Take Me Home Tonight was finished in 2007, but was delayed until 2011 due to the studio being uncomfortable with the scenes depicting drug use.
- Fanboys went through a legendary delay - it was finished in 2007, but delayed because the Weinsteins thought the cancer subplot in the film would make it less profitable, so they hired another director to re-shoot certain scenes, though Kyle Masterson eventually prevailed and managed to get the film a limited theatrical release in 2009 with the subplot intact.
- The Sarah Michelle Gellar film Possession (which was a remake of the South Korean film Addicted) was filmed in 2007 and scheduled for a theatrical release in winter 2008, but the film's distribution company ended up going bankrupt, which caused the release date to get pushed back nearly a dozen times until it was finally released Direct-to-Video in March 2010(and given the lackluster reviews, it's probably for the best).
- Trick 'r Treat was supposed to get a theatrical release in October 2007, but it ended up getting pushed back and dumped directly to DVD 2 years later.
- Case 39 was completed as far back as 2007, but it stayed in limbo until it finally got a US release in October 2010.
- Pride And Glory was shelved for 2 years before getting a release date in 2008.
- Paul Schrader shot his prequel to The Exorcist, but studio Morgan Creek had not much faith in it and instead ordered Renny Harlin to shoot his own version, 2005's Exorcist: The Beginning. Eventually Schrader's version was released as Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist one year later.
- The John Cusack and Chow Yun-fat film Shanghai was finished in 2008, but was delayed from getting released anywhere until 2010, when it was released in China and other countries, but as of 2014 still has not yet been released in the US.
- A month before its scheduled release in theaters, Paramount Pictures announced that it would be shelving the completed G.I. Joe: Retaliation until March 2013, supposedly so they could make a 3D conversion as well (along with adding more scenes with Channing Tatum, who was killed off in the original cut, and who had become a big star in 2012 after 21 Jump Street, The Vow and Magic Mike). It was also rumored that the delay was caused by the weak domestic performance of Battleship (a fellow Hasbro property), and that the director of Retaliation didn't know the film was being delayed in the first place.
- The Warrior's Way was completed in 2008 but not released until 2010.
- 9½ Weeks sat on the shelf for a year after it was finished because the studio couldn't figure out how to market it, nor what they could cut to avoid an R rating.
- Not just that but the original distributor (TriStar Pictures) dropped the film due to the content (at the time, their parent company was owned by Coca-Cola and they had a ban on releasing X-rated movies). MGM picked up and opened it in a limited run more than six months after the original release date.
- The Errol Morris documentary Fast, Cheap and Out of Control was filmed in 1992 but for some reason didn't get a release until 1997.
- The William Friedkin death penalty thriller Rampage was shot in 1987 but didn't open until 1992 due to the Dino DeLaurentiis company going bankrupt. After Miramax picked it up, Friedkin recut the film and changed the ending (the international release got the original ending) due to his opinions on the death penalty changing since filming it. The film was delayed for so long that Ennio Morricone's score album was out four years before the film was.
- Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was shot in 1987 but didn't open until 1989, also a casualty of DeLaurentiis' studio going under. The film's director even had to bring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in to redub a few lines due to the delay.
- The Wesley Snipes western Gallowwalkers was shot in 2006, with reshoots done in 2009, but didn't premiere until late 2012 in London (partially due to Snipes's legal issues, which previously led to delays in the reshoots) and was released direct to DVD in 2013.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was originally intended for a release in November of 2008, but was abruptly moved to July of 2009. Warner Bros. was concerned that they didn't have a Summer Blockbuster for 2009, due to the writers' strike, and The Dark Knight had been so successful that they didn't need another big release in '08. Summit Entertainment subsequently moved Twilight (the first movie) into Prince's original November slot, which may have contributed to the success of that franchise. Meanwhile, the filming of Deathly Hallows started whilst Prince was still on the shelf. An alternative reason for the delay exists — there are reports that Warner Bros. didn't like the original cut of it.
- The Dead Talk Back was filmed in 1957 but was abandoned after post-production and completely forgotten until 1993 when a copy was discovered in the old offices of its production company. Its first wide exposure came when it was featured as an "experiment" on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. The tale of this horror movie's long-delayed American release is a long and tragic one that's almost more famous than the movie itself. The Weinstein Company spent three million dollars to pick the finished film up for distribution, and planned to give it a wide release in 2007... and then Grindhouse flopped despite large amounts of publicity and a warm reception from critics, along with other big studio horror films around the same time. The Weinsteins, feeling that horror was now an unsound investment, sold the film to Senator Entertainment US, which has since gone out of business, leaving the film in limbo. For years, it didn't see the light of day in America outside of bootlegs and film festival screenings. Fortunately, the film was released in Britain, where it proceeded to make back its budget two-and-a-half times over. Even more fortunately, The Weinstein Company bought back the film, settled the legal troubles and got a limited October 2013 theatrical release (following a VOD release the month before) through their Radius label.
- The Samuel Fuller racism drama White Dog was filmed in 1982 but Paramount shelved it due to uneasiness over the film's content and it would not be released until it was quietly sneaked onto the Lifetime network (yes, that Lifetime) in 1987. The film would not see a home video release until 2010, when The Criterion Collection released it on DVD.
- Old Dogs was made in 2007, but it wasn't released until late 2009 because of two delays. First, after the death of Bernie Mac, who had a small part in it (this was the last movie he ever worked on), in August of 2008, and again in early 2009 after the death of star John Travolta's son Jett.
- Stephen Sommers' adaptation of the book Odd Thomas was finished in late 2011 (after financing issues briefly halted filming in mid 2011) but had difficulty in finding a distributor. When it finally did find one, the film got tied up in legal lawsuits as a result of the marketing department not promoting the film like they were supposed to, it eventually got a DVD release in 2014
- Heaven's Prisoners was filmed in 1994, but was shelved for two years until its release in May of 1996 when Savoy Pictures, the film's original distributor, went bankrupt and New Line Cinema eventually picked it up for distribution.
- Whiteout was completed in 2007, but didn't get released until September 2009, where it received negative reviews and poor box office returns.
- The horror movie 7500, The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu's third English-language movie, was originally scheduled for an August 2012 release (and had trailers released in February 2012) but was pulled from the release schedule by distributor CBS Films a few months before opening. It was then pushed to April 2013, which passed with no release, and star Scout Taylor-Compton tweeted that it would come out in October of 2013. It didn't, but it's reported to come out in October of 2014. It didn't. Whether the film will see the light of day in the US at all is anyone's guess.
- The Anna Paquin / Matt Damon drama Margaret was filmed in 2005 but because of a combination of lawsuits and the inability to deliver a final cut, didn't see a release until 2011. The released version (running a whopping 153 minutes) barely made it out of New York and Los Angeles and became one of the lowest-grossing releases in the history of 20th Century Fox.
- The college comedy Slackers was completed in 2000 but didn't get released until 2002.
- Ax 'Em was filmed in 1992 and shown a few times in Baltimore, but fell into obscurity until 2002, where it was released straight to video and DVD, where again it fell into obscurity until The Cinema Snob reviewed it.
- The Sandra Bullock/George Clooney sci-fi drama Gravity was intended to be released for Thanksgiving 2012 and be Warner Bros. ' big holiday movie (outside of the co-production of The Hobbit). However, the film's Troubled Production (due to many actors pulling out and the complex visual effects work causing delays), director Alfonso Cuaron's weak box office track record (his last sci-fi film, Children of Men, was a major box office disaster) and weak test screenings led the studio to shelve the film. It was released October 4, 2013, and did a $55.8 million opening. It went on to gross over 700 million dollars, and win 7 Academy Awards including Best Director.
- Supernova was filmed in 1998, but was shelved until January 2000 due to its Troubled Production, with the film's director Walter Hill disowning the finished product.
- The John Cusack horror film The Factory was shot in 2009 but studio politics led the film to be shelved until 2013, when it went straight-to-DVD.
- The Prophecy was completed in 1993, but wasn't released until September 1995.
- Ultraviolet finished filming in 2004, but didn't come out until March 2006.
- Oren Peli's follow-up to Paranormal Activity, Area 51, was filmed in late 2009 but as of 2014, there's been no news of a U.S. release (though the film was scheduled to premiere in Brazil in November 2013, it didn't turn up Stateside). This is especially puzzling since the former grossed over $100 million and Peli has gone on to produce a number of profitable horror films (such as the sequels to Paranormal Activity, Insidious and Sinister).
- Paramount did submit the film to the MPAA for an R rating back in June, so maybe there's hope.
- The 2008 bankruptcy of Capitol Films (mostly caused by the embezzlement of company funds by head David Bergstein) led to a number of films to either be unreleased or to fade into obscurity due to tangled legal issues. Two notable unreleased films were the dark comedy Nailed, starring Jessica Biel and Jake Gyllenhaal, which apparently was such a bad experience that director David O. Russell refused to finish the film, and the crime drama Black Water Transit, directed by Tony Kaye (American History X) and starring Laurence Fishburne. There was only one 2011 test screening on the former and a 2009 screening at Cannes on the latter (which Kaye says he's still in the process of editing, so that one may well see the light of day eventually). However, Nailed may yet come out first - it was eventually reedited and is set for UK release under the title of Politics Of Love (without Russell's involvement).
- Alec Baldwin's remake of The Devil and Daniel Webster was filmed in 2001 but a series of legal issues kept it out of theatres until July 2007, where a recut version (disowned by Baldwin) entitled Shortcut to Happiness played in a few regional markets in the East and South. This version has also appeared on Starz and Netflix but said legal issues have prevented a home video release.
- The remake of Rollerball was originally supposed to premiere in 2001, but it got pushed back several times until it was finally released in February 2002.
- "O", the modern day retelling of Shakespeare's Othello, was originally supposed to be released in spring 1999, but then Columbine happened, and the thought of releasing a film which featured gun violence amongst high school students so soon afterwards was unthinkable, so the film didn't see the light of day until more then two years later in August 2001.
- You're Next was filmed in 2011 and had a very well-received premiere at the Toronto Film Festival that September (the film's resulting bidding war would later influence the festival to go for a more youth-oriented style in future years). After Lions Gate won the bid, they announced a Fall 2012 opening with a large-scale release. However, Lionsgate buying Summit Entertainment and a bad test screening (director Adam Wingard's handheld shooting style has done well with festival audiences but American audiences haven't been keen on it) led Lionsgate to shelve the film and push it back to August 2013.
- Monsters University, the prequel to Monsters, Inc., was finished in 2012 and was scheduled for a November 2012 release, but its release date was moved to Summer 2013. This is because Disney's Wreck-It Ralph was finished earlier in the year, and they didn't want to wait so long to release it. Since Pixar prefers to release their movies during the summer of each year, Wreck-It Ralph ended up taking Monsters Academy's original release date.
- Marci X was completed in 2000 but didn't get released until 2003, where it opened to mostly negative reviews and did poorly at the box-office.
- The horror film Carnivore was completed in 1989 but didn't get released on video until 2000.
- The John Hughes film She's Having a Baby was intended to be ready for a Summer 1987 release but wasn't released until February 1988 due to the director having post-production issues with Planes, Trains and Automobiles and him begin unable to concentrate on editing two films at one time.
- Touch And Go was completed in 1984 but not released until two years later.
- Hippie Hippie Shake was finished in 2007 but still has no release date planned. Some say it's because of the film's poor quality (though it did receive some good reviews at screenings) other's say it's for insurance reasons due to Green Zone doing poorly and Universal not wanting to take a loss by releasing the film. Others believe that the real life Germaine Greer (one of the central subjects of the film) had put the kibosh on the movie herself because she felt it was an inaccurate representation of her life.
- Bad Girls From Valley High, completed in 2000, spent so long on the shelf - it came out in 2005 - that the production company (The Bubble Factory) went out of business and cast members Janet Leigh and Jonathan Brandis both passed away.
- Mindhunters was filmed in 2002, but didn't come out in the United States until May 2005 (it was released around the world the previous year) due to the split between Miramax and Disney.
- Cherry Falls was finished in 1999 but shelved by Universal due to Columbine (the studio felt uneasy over the premise of a teenage serial killer that preys on virgins) and later canceled the theatrical release (it played theatrically in Europe though, where it was a modest performer). The film finally made its US debut in 2000 on the USA Network.
- And this wasn't the only Brittany Murphy movie to meet such a fate - Something Wicked, her final film, was made in 2009 and released in 2014... five years after her demise.
- Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses was finished in 2000 and originally bought by Universal, but they shelved it as they were afraid the film's content would garner an NC-17 rating, so Zombie had to buy back the rights himself and sold it to Lionsgate, who finally released the film in 2003.
- The Tyler Perry-produced Peeples was shot in 2010 but wasn't released until 2013.
- 88 Minutes was made in 2005, but got various release dates in 2007 overseas until it was released in the United States in April 2008.
- View from the Top was supposed to be released in late 2001, but was delayed until 2003 due to studios being uncomfortable releasing a film that made fun of flight attendants Too Soon after 9/11.
- Finding Neverland was filmed in 2002 but wasn't released until 2004 as Miramax didn't want the film to open close to Peter Pan. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, the delay helped get the film a number of Oscar nominations (including Best Picture).
- The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was filmed in 2009, but wasn't released until 2012 in order for Kenn Viselmann to patent the film's interactive technology.
- The movie version of The Fantasticks was finished in 1995 but shelved after a few preview screenings. It got rushed out to a limited theatrical run five years later due to legal obligations.
- The Brain That Wouldn't Die was filmed in 1959, but ran into trouble finding a distributor and wasn't released until 1962.
- The Final Terror was originally filmed in 1981, but it was shelved for two years until it was released to cash in on the sudden successes of Daryl Hannah and Adrian Zmed.
- Not Safe for Work (Joe Johnston's follow-up to Captain America: The First Avenger) has been finished since 2012 but has yet to find a domestic release due to studio politics at Universal (the film was originally planned for theatrical release and then a straight-to-DVD release in April 2014). The film was then released to home video in May 2014.
- Warlock was finished in 1988, but shelved for two years following financial difficulties at New World Pictures (although like The Punisher, which was also affected, it did get released on schedule outside North America). Trimark eventually picked it up and gave it a limited release in 1991.
- The Entity was filmed for a 1981 release but would not open internationally until late 1982 and in the US in February 1983 due to the original distributor going out of business.
- Chuck Jones' adaptation of The Phantom Tollbooth was completed in 1968, but internal shakeups at MGM caused it to be shelved until 1970, when it was released under the studio's "Children's Matinees" umbrella.
- Disney's live-action comedy Superdad was made in 1971, but was shelved until it was released, only to flop, in 1973.
- Raise the Titanic! was finished in 1978 but not released until 1980.
- Found Footage horror film Wer was shot in 2012, but it got delayed by its distributor Film District for unknown reasons. Following the company's closure, the film ended up with Focus Features and they will be releasing it straight to DVD in September 2014.
- Fireflies in the Garden was finished in 2008 but not released until 2011.
- Radio Flyer was originally intended as Columbia's big movie for the summer of 1991—odd in hindsight given its B-level cast, lack of big special effects, and grim subject matter for a family film. The release date was constantly shuffled due to reshoots, production delays, and finally bad test screenings. Eventually, the film was quietly released in February 1992 and was a critically-savaged Box Office Bomb.
- Serena was the second of the unofficial Jennifer Lawrence-Bradley Cooper trilogy to be filmed, preceded by Silver Linings Playbook and followed by American Hustle. Now it'll be the last to come out (in 2014 in Europe, set for a 2015 release date in the US).
- Project Almanac was filmed in 2013 with a planned February 28, 2014 release date. However, Paramount delayed it a few weeks before its scheduled release. The film is now set to be released on January 2015 (and it underwent a title change. Prior to the delay, the original title was Welcome to Yesterday).
- Arsenic and Old Lace was filmed in 1941 but unreleased until 1944 due to contractual obligations stating that the film could not be released while the Broadway show on which it was based was still running.
- Foxcatcher was filmed in 2012 but did not open until November 2014 (with a premiere at Cannes that May) as Sony did not like its chances in the 2013 Oscar race.
- The Interview, a Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy about assassinating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, just barely avoided becoming a victim of this trope. The film sparked outrage from North Korea almost immediately, with Pyongyang referring to it as an "act of war", and hackers (believed by the FBI to have been connected to North Korea, though some cybersecurity experts believe it was an inside job from an ex-employee) attacked the servers of the film's studio, Sony Pictures, and released a mountain of emails and personal information. Then, theater owners were sent an ominous message threatening terrorist attacks against theaters that chose to screen the film. Sony originally left it up to theater chains to decide for themselves, but when all five major chains backed out, Sony pulled the film's release. Many people (including President Barack Obama) felt the decision was a mistake and accused Sony and the theaters of appeasing terrorists, and many petitions to Sony to show the film were created, with at least one gathering hundreds of signatures. The intense backlash convinced Sony to change their minds and gave the film a limited theatrical/VOD release on Christmas day.
- 7th Son was filmed in early 2012 for release in 2013. Then the visual effects studio went bankrupt. They were paid off to complete their work anyhow, but a 3D conversion and the severance of a relationship between distributor Warner Bros. and the production company (and thus the switch to Universal) delayed the movie's eventual American release to February 2015 (though it had come out a couple of months earlier in some international markets).
- The found-footage horror film The Poughkeepsie Tapes was originally scheduled for release in February 2008, but its release was delayed indefinitely a month before it was to come out, with no explanation given by its distributor. Given that that distributor was MGM, which was just starting to fall apart at the time (see the Red Dawn remake and The Cabin in the Woods above), it's not difficult to guess why. The film finally saw a VOD release through DirecTV in 2014, but was pulled shortly thereafter, meaning that the film is not available through any legal channels. A rough cut of the film can be found online, however, and it has been screened at festivals.
- Amityville: The Awakening was originally supposed to be released on January 2, 2015, but was delayed indefinitely a few months prior to its release. No new release date has been announced.
Live Action TV
- At Last The 1948 Show (1967) was so-called because ITV supposedly kept shows sitting on shelves for months or years before finally deciding to air them. (Not to mention the fact that ITV didn't actually go on air until 1955.)
- The TV adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time was initially to air in February 2002, and even early promotions (which were included on the first video releases of Spy Kids) stated it. It didn't air in the United States until May 2004; it had aired in Canada a year earlier.
- A remake of the miniseries Sybil was filmed in 2007 and got an European release that year but it wasn't aired in the US until it was burned off one Saturday night in June 2008.
- One of the most extreme cases ever: The Frankie Howerd-starring BBC sitcom When Churchill Said to Me, set during the Second World War, was made in 1982. Various reasons, notably the Falklands War, saw it shelved. It eventually turned up on satellite in 1992 and wasn't shown by the BBC until 2000, long after Howerd's death. (Even then, they cut the six-episode season in half with a six month gap in the middle.)
- The Beatles recorded the songs which became the album Let It Be in 1969 but then shelved the whole thing and went back to the studio, producing and releasing Abbey Road in 1969. Let It Be (along with its accompanying film) was released in 1970.
- When Willie Nelson signed with Atlantic Records in 1973 he recorded two albums worth of material at the same sessions. One was his first "outlaw country" album Shotgun Willie, the other was a gospel album called The Troublemaker. Nelson actually thought The Troublemaker turned out the better of the two, but Atlantic didn't think a gospel album would sell so they shelved it. After releasing one more album on Atlantic (Phases & Stages) he moved to Columbia Records, and Atlantic let him have the master tapes for The Troublemaker, which he finally released on Columbia in 1976.
- It's common for an artist to record an album for one label, have it go unreleased due to poor performance of its singles, then finally have the album come out once the artist makes it big on another label. Examples:
- Both Big Kenny and John Rich recorded solo albums in the late 1990s. Neither was released until 2005, when they became semi-famous as the duo Big & Rich.
- Due to poor performance of its singles, Marty Stuart's 1988 album Let There Be Country was not released by Columbia until he had a few hits under his belt over at MCA in the early 90s.
- David Ball recorded an album for RCA in the 80s, but it wasn't released at the time. After he had a big hit with Thinkin' Problem on Warner Bros. Records, RCA released the album they were holding onto.
- Sarah Buxton released her debut single "Innocence" in 2006. It and her next two singles didn't do very well, so her album sat for four years before it was released. And just in time, since the label (Lyric Street) closed not long afterward.
- Elvis Costello recorded the Cover Album Kojak Variety in 1990 but didn't release it until 1995.
- Elton John recorded a 10-song album in 2012 with producer T-Bone Burnett, as the followup to 2010's critically acclaimed, Burnett-produced collaboration with Leon Russell, The Union. It was made as a lean, "back-to-basics" work with emphasis on his piano-playing, largely built around the piano-bass-drums sound Elton adopted in concert in the early 1970's, prior to his successful "glam period". After attempting a May 2012 release date, it was moved to 2013 to allow for better promotional potential. In the meantime, he and lyricist Bernie Taupin noticed a thematic continuity running through most of the songs, wrote a few new songs and discarded one of the originals. The album title was changed to Voyeur, then back to its original title, The Diving Board. It was released in September 2013, and peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200.
- The Beach Boys' career-defining masterpiece Smile, in probably the most famous example of this trope in music history, sat around for nearly forty-five years past its intended release date of January 1967, always in different states of completion due to Brian Wilson's obsessive tinkering. The album was finally released to mark the band's fiftieth anniversary in a massive 5 CD's + 2 45's + 2 LP's box. (seven years prior, Wilson had done a solo version of Smile that greatly influenced the eventual Beach Boys release)
- Eleven years after Chumbawamba's 1992 album Jesus H. Christ was buried by a mountain of legal issues, the band announced on their website that they would be releasing it in some form or another in the near future. This never happened. (Given that it likely would've been shorn of its samples - and thus would've resembled the Shhh album again - this was probably for the best.)
- Black Bastards by KMD, a group featuring a young MF Doom as Zev Love X, was ready for release in 1993, but was shelved until 2001 due to the label's fear of the album's racial content. By the time it was finally released, DOOM's brother Subroc was dead and DOOM had begun his more well-known solo career.
- Neil Young's Tonight's the Night was recorded in 1973, but shelved by the record label because they thought it was too uncommercial. It was eventually released as submitted to the label two years later, and while it didn't sell well to begin with, it was almost immediately canonised as a masterpiece.
- The first Mahavishnu Orchestra's third album was recorded in 1973, but languished in a vault because the band couldn't agree on the value of the album (band leader John McLaughlin always maintained it was the best thing they ever recorded). It was finally released in 1999.
- Frank Zappa's Läther was submitted to Warner Brothers in 1977, but due to Executive Meddling, was not released as submitted until 1996. The material intended to be released on the four-LP set was instead divided between four albums, one of them itself a double LP set.
- Johnny Cash's Out Among the Stars was recorded in 1981 and 1984, but the material was shelved by Columbia Records. A small handful of additional recordings were done in 2013 after Cash's death and the album was finally released in 2014.
- Krull, based on the 1983 Cult Classic Science Fantasy movie, was a completed game, with full playfield designs, artwork, and sound effects completed. However, the high cost of the game (due to its use of a second, full-sized playfield underneath the main level) and the box-office failure of the movie caused Gottlieb management to get cold feet and kill the project. Only 10 prototypes exist, and are highly sought after by collectors.
- Similar to Big Bang Bar, Capcom's Kingpin was nearly completed and slated to begin production, only for those plans to be derailed when Capcom closed its pinball division. Unlike BBB, however, attempts to license or remake the game have (so far) failed to borne fruit.
- Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PS1 completed development in 1999, but Sunsoft's U.S. division closed down around the time and the game wasn't released until it was picked up by Crave Entertainment in 2001.
- The Red Star, a PS2 shoot-'em-up based on the comic book of the same name (which was also scheduled for the Xbox, but never released), was finished in 2004, but was canceled when its original publisher (Acclaim) went out of business. It was later picked up by XS Games and released in 2007.
- The Dead of The Brain 1 & 2, a PC Engine port of two visual novels originally released for the PC-98, was initially scheduled to be released in 1994, but shelved due to the dwindling support for the PC Engine in Japan. Dead of the Brain was eventually released in 1999 in limited quantities, more than two years after the previous PC Engine release (Hataraku Shojo), giving it the distinction of being the final official game for the system. It also came out a year after the final PC-FX game, which meant that the PC-Engine technically outlived both of its sucessors (the other one being the ill-fated SuperGrafx in 1990).
- This was the fate of the North American localization of MOTHER, which had a finished translation and marketing strategy that were never released due to a variety of factors, such as the NES era having basically ended with the release of the SNES. Fortunately for fans of the series, the localized prototype ROM has been around on the internet for a while.
- Similarily, Nintendo Puzzle League for the Nintendo Gamecube. It was going to be the first time Panel de Pon would hit the States, and the game got an ESRB rating, but Nintendo chose to ax the release for whatever reason.
- Likewise with Archaic Sealed Heat, a visually stunning DS strategy RPG developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and his studio Mistwalker. An ESRB rating was filed, and an English voice actor for lead character Aisya was cast (Sabra May), but the game flopped hard in Japan, prompting Nintendo to shelve its Western release for good.
- Anarchy Reigns was suffering majorly from this due to Sega incessantly pushing back the release date due to their financial troubles brought on by their long-standing history of bad marketing decisions, delaying the initial Summer 2012 release all the way back to January 2013. This is not the first time they've done this to Platinum Games, but this time it's especially noticeable due to the game's heavy emphasis on online multiplayer. Naturally this doesn't apply to Japan.
- Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the 3D Sam and Max game from LucasArts, was planned for a 2004 release. The game's development was finished and it was even rated by the ESRB, but LucasArts chose to cancel it because they didn't think the interest was large enough, and they fired a great majority of their "creative division" as a result.
- Half-Life's Sega Dreamcast port was cancelled because of the Dreamcast's diminishing sales in America, even though the port was completed. ISOs of the port have been leaked on the internet however.
- Rayman Legends was set for a Spring 2013 release as a Wii U exclusive, but Ubisoft decided that to make things fair, they should port it to other systems as well, since most Rayman fans reside amongst the PC and Playstation fronts. Instead of releasing the WiiU version for the Spring and the other versions for September, they are releasing the WiiU version alongside the other versions in September.
- The Neo Geo game Zupapa was all set to be released in 1994, but publisher Face went bankrupt, delaying the game's release for seven years. Two other unreleased Neo Geo games from the same year, Face's Treasure of the Caribbean and Visco Games' Bang Bang Busters, finally had authorized releases by Neo Conception International in 2011.
- Putty Squad was to have been released in 1994 first for the Amiga 1200, with versions for the SNES and other platforms to follow. The SNES version was the only one released (not counting playable demos), despite nine magazines giving the apparently finished Amiga 1200 version favorable reviews. After nearly two decades of rumors, the Amiga version finally reached the public at the end of 2013.
- Hostile Breed, an ambitious Bug War game for the Amiga, was finished and reviewed in several gaming magazines in mid-1992 shortly before its developer, Palace Software, went bankrupt. A copy of the full game was found in 2010 and released by Amiga Games That Weren't.
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game was only a few months from its release date of October 2008 when Activision, who had acquired the game's originally slated publisher, decided against releasing it. Atari picked up the publishing rights and released the game in June 2009.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes underwent this in its second season. All of the episodes reached completion by 2011, as indicated by the copyright dates shown in the end credits. The Blu-Ray Discs of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, released in Fall of that year, included a trailer showing clips from the first half of that season. Despite all this, Disney XD didn't show any of the cartoons until April 1, 2012, the same day that Ultimate Spider-Man premiered. (By this point, some fans had already seen the season premiere, "The Private War of Doctor Doom", after Marvel Animation played it at some conventions.)
- Star Wars: Detours, a comedic take on the Star Wars universe, with Seth Green as a showrunner. The full series was completed and a trailer was released in 2013, around when Star Wars: The Clone Wars was finishing its run. Unfortunately, that was about the same time Disney bought Lucasfilm. Reportedly, Disney didn't want younger audiences to be introduced to classic Star Wars characters via goofy parodies before seeing them in the new film trilogy. The series was postponed, though the showrunners of Robot Chicken say the series will be released at some point.