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Theme Music Withholding

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You're worried they would pull some Theme Music Abandonment, and it made you mad. You're resigned to the fact that They Changed It, Now It Sucks!, but then the theme comes roaring back at just the right moment. Sometimes it's just Pandering to the Base, but usually it's withheld to create a massive Moment of Awesome at just the right moment. The practice of holding back some familiar theme music is often done in reboots or somewhat distant sequels. The familiar theme music once commonplace is played now only at the end.

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A variation of this is for the work to play the real theme music regularly, but to withhold a more popular song that is accepted by most as the de facto theme of the series, for example the level 1 or world map music from some games.


Examples:

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    Anime 
  • The final episode of Lucky Star lacks the intro song and dance, before it turns out that the characters do the dance in-universe as their final performance at the school.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Stars replaces the previous (and only other) opening theme, "Moonlight Densetsu", with "Sailor Star Song". "Moonlight Densetsu" makes its first appearance since Super S and only appearance in Sailor Stars at the end of the final episode. Combined with Usagi's monologue it serves as bookends back to the very first season as well.

    Film 
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines: Brad Fiedel's theme is heard only in the end credits.
  • Casino Royale (2006): The James Bond theme plays in full over the ending and credits. In previous Bond films, a snippet of the theme was played in the famous "gunbarrel" opening sequence, then usually at least once in the movie itself during an action sequence. As Casino Royale was a reboot, it was decided to withhold the use of the theme until the very end. This is done again in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, which also restore the full gunbarrel sequence, though only at the end of the films. Spectre brings both back to the film's opening.
    • The use of the film's opening titles song as an instrumental secondary theme is withheld in Skyfall and Spectre, where the theme is only played once. Adele's "Skyfall" can be heard when Bond is entering the Macau casino, while Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" is heard when Bond and Madeleine kiss on the train.
    • On most Bond films, the ostinato of the Bond theme (da-da-DA-da) is used as a leitmotif. Casino Royale uses this to play a trick on the audience: the first two chords of the chorus from "You Know My Name" are more or less the same as the Bond theme's ostinato, so you hear those first two notes, and you're "primed" to finish it off in your head with the last two notes, but the score keeps going for "You Know My Name" until the end.
  • Star Trek (2009): A souped-up version of Alexander Courage's theme, courtesy of Michael Giacchino, plays in full over the final sequence and in the ending credits. This is repeated in Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond, with subtle variations in the instrumentation used.
  • Sukiyaki Western Django: A cover of Franco Migliacci's Django theme appears in the final scene.
  • Halloween II, the sequel to the remake: The theme is heard only in the end, and only in the theatrical cut.
  • The first Sam Raimi Spider-Man film uses the old 1960s animated TV show theme song in the end credits. Spider-Man 2 does the same with a modern cover of the song. Spider-Man: Homecoming goes one step further and averts the trope by having a fully orchestrated version of the theme play over the Marvel Studios logo at the beginning.
  • For Marvel Studios, The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame were all scored by Alan Silvestri, while Avengers: Age of Ultron was scored by Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman, and Captain America: Civil War was scored by Henry Jackman. Despite including nearly all the Avengers and having its plot centered around the Avengers as a team splintering, the music in Captain America: Civil War doesn't contain the Avengers theme, and Avengers: Age of Ultron has it rejigged, but not included in its original arrangement until the end credits. It wasn't until Avengers: Infinity War that it was heard in its full glory during the actual film.
  • The 2011 film adaptation of The Green Hornet only uses the classic theme in its final scenes.
  • The final Harry Potter film takes its time in introducing the iconic theme. Drawn out, minor chord snippets appear here and there, showcasing how Darker and Edgier the film is. The full, normal version is finally played in all its glory when Headmaster Snape is thwarted, and all of Hogwarts bands together to stand against the Death Eaters. The torches in the previously unlit main hall are also lit at that time, to give a sense of hope to the scene.
  • The 2005 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie swapped out the traditional "Journey of the Sorcerer" with a new, original song based around the dolphins leaving Earth for the credits ("So Long and Thanks for All the Fish"). "Sorcerer", however, is used as fanfare to lead into the narrator introducing the Guide itself in a sequence that could be considered a second opening for the film.
  • "The Ballad Of Serenity", the theme song to the television series Firefly, is absent throughout Serenity. A quiet, single guitar, lyric-free version can be heard at the very end of the closing credits.
  • The classic intro theme for Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers can be finally heard for a few seconds at the start of the climax of the 2017 film adaptation, when the Rangers start using their Zords.
  • For Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the Jurassic Park theme music is played in its full glory only during the ending credits. Throughout the movie, only a couple of brief cues are heard referencing the theme.
  • Star Wars: Rogue One: A full-blown and triumphant reprise of the Vader/Empire theme is saved for the very end of the Final Battle, when Darth Vader sees the Rebel ship that carries the plans of the Death Star escaping right under his nose.
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    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: The Alexander Courage theme is used in the ending sequence of the final episode.
  • Battlestar Galactica: The original series theme is used sparingly. Once in a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo during the miniseries, once as a full-blown orchestral arrangement in the episode "Final Cut" (that was arranged with the input of original series composer Stu Phillips), once during the flashback battle in the film Razor (a purely Bear McCreary arrangement), and one last time during the final scene featuring Galactica.
  • Law & Order: LA: The theme is not used till after the Retool.
  • Smallville: John Williams' iconic Superman March plays in full during the last moments of the final episode, pleasing the Unpleasable Fanbase and saving the world!
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: A significant number of episodes have a Title-Only Opening, instead saving the theme song at dramatically appropriate moments, usually near the end of the episode; this lead to fans jokingly declaring "Ex-Aid has no opening."

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • The main theme of Avatar: The Last Airbender (outside of a moment in a flashback) doesn't show up in sequel series Legend of Korra until Korra unlocks the Avatar State in the season one finale.
  • In the penultimate episode of Castlevania (2017) The famous song "Bloody Tears" starts playing when the trio of heroes show up to the titular castle and have an incredible fight with the vampire generals.
  • The first installments of long-running franchises can come across as this in retrospect, as the song associated with that original entry may not have been introduced until later in its run.
    • The Flintstones: While the instrumental is present for the first two seasons, the lyrical version of "Meet the Flintstones" didn't exist until Season 3.
    • Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!!'s first episode used one of the show's most-well known leitmotifs (the title card music) and Shaggy's voice intoning "Scooby-Doo, where are you?" for its opening sequence. The now familiar theme song by Ben Raleigh and Ralph Mook wouldn't make its appearance for another two episodes.
    • Similarly, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop had a rinky-tink piano and a slapstick "Perils of Pauline" type instrumental in its first installment ("Jungle Jeopardy") which was replaced afterwards by the instrumental used in the closing credits. Boomerang airings and the DVD release have all seventeen episodes save for one with the "Jungle Jeopardy" instrumentals in their openings.

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