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15 Shelved Movies That Were Eventually Released Years Later

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Sometimes, movie releases are delayed because studios don’t know how to sell the film to audiences or because of financial or legal pitfalls. These projects are “shelved,” meaning they sit collecting dust, unseen by audiences for years (or even decades).

1. 'Margaret': Shelved for 6 Years

Margaret completed production in 2005, but it was shelved for six years because of lawsuits against director Kenneth Lonergan. He was contractually obligated to deliver a movie with a run time less than 150 minutes, but the final cut came in more than half an hour longer than that. Fox Searchlight shelved it until the lawsuits between the director and his financiers could be settled.

When it finally came out in 2011 in a limited release of just 14 theaters, Margaret’s run time was exactly 149 minutes and 49 seconds. Now on DVD, you can now enjoy the director’s cut that clocks in at 186 minutes.

2. 'Prozac Nation': Shelved for 4 Years

Although Prozac Nation made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001, its distributor Miramax then shelved the film for more than four years due to lukewarm test screening reactions. Miramax was under the belief that they couldn’t sell the film to general audiences, so they quietly released it on the premium cable network Starz! in 2005.

3. 'The Cabin in the Woods': Shelved for 2 Years

The Cabin in the Woods was set for release in early 2010, but its distributor MGM was on the verge of bankruptcy. As a result, the post-modern horror film didn’t open until early 2012. When it finally did come out, the rising star power of Chris Hemsworth and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon gave The Cabin in the Woods a boost at the box office.

4. 'Take Me Home Tonight': Shelved for 4 Years

Take Me Home Tonight was completed in 2007, but it didn’t receive a theatrical release date until four years later. According to star Topher Grace, Take Me Home Tonight’s distributor Universal Pictures delayed it because they didn’t know how to market a youth comedy with so much cocaine and drug consumption.

"It's an audience film. It's not drama, but there was a real hesitation because there is so much cocaine in it, and our feeling at the time was, 'You can't do a movie about Prohibition without alcohol, and you really can't do a movie about partying in the '80s, at the age these kids are, without showing cocaine use," said Grace. Rogue Pictures acquired the distribution rights for $10 million and released the film in 2011.

5. 'Fanboys': Shelved for 1 Year

In 2009, Fanboys was finally released in theaters after a shaky post-production period that saw it sit on the shelf at The Weinstein Company for a year. After a re-shoot period where director Kyle Newman had a difficult time getting the cast together again, The Weinstein Company wanted to re-edit the movie's story from a group of teenagers breaking into Skywalker Ranch so their friend could watch The Phantom Menace before he dies of cancer into a road-trip-sex comedy. Without Newman’s consent, Little Nicky director Steven Brill was brought in to shoot new elements to remove the cancer plot and to make it more raunchy.

6. 'The Plot Against Harry': Shelved for 20 Years

Director Michael Roemer’s The Plot Against Harry premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1969, but it could not find theatrical distribution because it tested poorly with general audiences. It sat on the shelf for twenty years until Roemer wanted to show it to his children. Both his kids and the film transfer technician working with Roemer thought the film was funny, so Roemer struck new prints and applied to the New York Film Festival. The Plot Against Harry belatedly found critical acclaim and commercial distribution in 1989.

7. 'Red Dawn' (2012): Shelved for 3 Years

Although the film was finished in 2009, the remake of Red Dawn sat on MGM’s shelf for three years. Before an expected summer 2010 release date, MGM had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was unable to finance projects. After MGM re-structured, Red Dawn was slated for 2011, but another controversy hindered its release.

MGM didn’t want to offend the emerging Chinese movie-going market, so producers decided to change the enemies’ nationalities. Throughout 2011, filmmakers painstakingly changed the Chinese invaders and their insignia into North Koreans using digital special effects.

8. 'A Thousand Words': Shelved for 4 Years

The Eddie Murphy comedy A Thousand Words completed production in 2008 with a release date planned for sometime in 2009. However, it didn’t open until 2012 because it was caught in a legal battle over distribution rights between Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks.

The studios split and equally divided about 200 film projects, but they couldn’t come to terms with two films that were already completed at the time of separation: A Thousand Words and The Lovely Bones. Considering that the latter is from Peter Jackson, an Academy Award-winning director, and the former tracked poorly with test audiences, Paramount and DreamWorks released The Lovely Bones and shelved A Thousand Words.

9. 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer': Shelved for 4 Years

While it was completed in 1986, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer wasn’t released until four years later because of its violent and bloody subject matter. Director John McNaughton experienced a long battle with the MPAA when he couldn’t deliver an R-rated version without compromising his vision. However, Roger Ebert felt a passion for Henry, and the critic led a campaign to see its release in theaters. The MPAA eventually gave it an unrated tag in 1990.

10. 'Repo Men': Shelved for 2 Years

Although the film was completed in 2008, Repo Men didn’t come out in theaters until two years later. Relativity Media and Universal Pictures shelved Repo Men when they learned that the film adaptation of cult rock musical Repo! The Genetic Opera was opening around the same time. Both featured similar titles and plots involving men tasked with repossessing organ implants when customers were unable to pay their bills. While the musical gained cult status, the other film failed to find an audience or admirers when it was released in early 2010.

11. 'Romance and Cigarettes': Shelved for 2 Years

John Turturro’s Romance and Cigarettes premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2005 but sat on the shelf for two years until its eventual self-financed release. It found distribution with United Artists, but was lost in the shuffle when Sony bought out the smaller company. Frustrated with the lack of movement, Turturro put up his own money to finance a limited release in 2007.

12. 'Rampage': Shelved for 5 Years

The William Friedkin film Rampage screened at European film festivals in 1987, but it didn’t receive a theatrical release until 1992. Its production company, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, filed for bankruptcy, which contributed to the five-year lag between premiere and release. When Rampage finally found new distribution with Miramax during the early '90s, Friedkin changed his point of view on the death penalty and shot a new ending, and re-edited the film accordingly. Instead of committing suicide in prison, the main character sends his victims’ families disturbing and violent letters and is scheduled for a parole hearing.

13. 'Blue Sky': Shelved for 3 Years

Blue Sky was completed in 1991, but it wasn’t released in theaters until 1994. Its distributor, Orion Pictures, filed for bankruptcy shortly after Blue Sky wrapped production and, after Orion's restructuring, the film was released and received widespread critical acclaim. Jessica Lange received an Academy Award for Best Female Actor in a Leading Role.

14. 'Lovers on the Bridge' (Les Amants du Pont-Neuf): Shelved for 8 Years

French director Leos Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge gained some critical acclaim when it premiered during the Cannes Film Festival in 1991. Impressed with how audiences and critics took to the film, Miramax acquired the distribution rights for the stateside market. However, Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein didn’t see any commercial appeal with Lovers on the Bridge and let it sit on the shelf for eight years. Director Martin Scorsese’s passion and enthusiasm for the film led to its release under the Miramax Zoë subdivision in 1999.

15. 'I Love Lucy: The Movie': Shelved for 48 Years

In 1953, MGM made a feature film version of the widely popular TV comedy I Love Lucy. It was made up of three episodes of the television show with new footage that bridged the gaps. However, MGM shelved the movie because studio executives believed it would interfere with the release of The Long, Long Trailer, which also starred Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. I Love Lucy: The Movie sat on the shelf for almost 50 years until it was screened at a fan convention in 2001.

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20 John Carpenter Quotes About Horror Movies
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Though he’s made a variety of movies—from fantasy to science fiction films—John Carpenter will forever be known as a master of horror, thanks in large part to the role he played in reinventing the genre with 1978’s Halloween. To celebrate the award-winning filmmaker’s 70th birthday, we’ve gathered up 20 of his most memorable quotes about Hollywood.

1. ON THE DEFINITION OF HORROR

“Horror is a reaction; it's not a genre.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

2. ON THE RULES OF MOVIEMAKING

“I think the rules of filmmaking are essentially the same as they were since, I guess, The Birth Of A Nation. The way you make movies: long shot, close-up, camera movement, structure—it’s all the same. Not much has changed. But the technology of movies has vastly changed. From 35mm black-and-white to color, from nitrate film to safety film and now into digital—and yet we’re still breaking scenes into master shots and close-ups. The cinema narrative has not changed that much since the silent film.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

3. ON THE TWO TYPES OF HORROR STORIES

“There are two different stories in horror: internal and external. In external horror films, the evil comes from the outside, the other tribe, this thing in the darkness that we don’t understand. Internal is the human heart.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

4. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

“One movie that showed me it was possible to make a low-budget horror movie was Night of the Living Dead (1968). When I saw that, I was like, 'Wow, that's really effective, but it's obviously low budget.' They didn't have any money but they actually made something cool. That was inspirational to me when I was in film school.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

5. ON THE TRUTH ABOUT HOLLYWOOD

“Film buffs who don't live in Hollywood have a fantasy about what it's like to be a director. Movies and the people who make movies have such glamor associated with them. But the truth is, it's not like that. It's very different. It's hard work. If you were suddenly catapulted into that situation—without any training—you would say after it was over: 'Oh, God! You're kidding! You mean, this is what it's like? This is what they put you through?' Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like this—and it's often worse. People have tried to describe the film business, but it's impossible to describe because it's so crazy. You must know your craft inside out and then pick up the rules as you go along.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

6. ON THE HORROR OF WATCHING HIS OWN MOVIES

“I don't watch my films. I've seen 'em enough after cutting them and putting the music on. I don't ever want to see them again.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

7. ON THE EMOTIONAL TOLL MAKING MOVIES CAN TAKE ON A DIRECTOR

“I’ve been feeling old for years and years, and I think the movie business did it to me. At one point I just did movie after movie, and it starts tearing you down physically—emotionally too, if you do one after another. The stress, the emotional exertion of dealing with others. I’ve worked with really great actors and really difficult actors. The difficult ones are no fun. And the style of the movies today have changed a great deal. To me, I’m not a big fan of handheld. That’s just my tastes. That’s a quick fix for low budget. Let the operator direct it! Walk around. That’s how you burn through the pages. And found footage—how many times do we need to do that?”

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

8. ON WHAT MAKES A GOOD HORROR FILM

“There’s a very specific secret: It should be scary.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

9. ON THE PERCEPTION OF A MOVIEMAKER

“In England, I'm a horror movie director. In Germany, I'm a filmmaker. In the U.S., I'm a bum.”

—From The Films of John Carpenter

10. ON STANDING OUT

“I don't want to be in the mainstream. I don't want to be a part of the demographics. I want to be an individual. I wear each of my films as a badge of pride. That's why I cherish all my bad reviews. If the critics start liking my movies, then I'm in deep trouble.”

—From an essay for Santa Fe Studios

11. ON MAINTAINING CONTROL

“My years in the business have taught me not to worry about what you can’t control.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

12. ON HIS FAVORITE MOVIES

“I have two different categories of favorite films. One is the emotional favorites, which means these are generally films that I saw when I was a kid; anything you see in your formative years is more powerful, because it really stays with you forever. The second category is films that I saw while I was learning the craft of motion pictures.”

—From a 2011 interview with Rotten Tomatoes

13. ON BEING STUCK IN THE 1980S

“Well, They Live was a primal scream against Reaganism of the '80s. And the '80s never went away. They're still with us. That's what makes They Live look so fresh—it's a document of greed and insanity. It's about life in the United States then and now. If anything, things have gotten worse.”

—From a 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly

14. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF INSTINCT

“I think every director depends primarily on his instincts. That’s what’s got him where he is, what’s going to carry him through the good times and the bad. I generally go with what I instinctually think I can do well.”

—From a 2011 interview with Vulture

15. ON BEING TYPECAST AS A DIRECTOR

“I haven't just made horror. I've made all sorts of movies. There have been fantasy movies, thrillers, horrors, science fiction. In terms of the ultimate reward, listen, man, when I was a kid, when I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a movie director, and I got to be a movie director. I lived my f*cking dream, you can't get better than that. That's the ultimate.”

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

16. ON THE REALITY OF MONSTERS

“Monsters in movies are us, always us, one way or the other. They’re us with hats on. The zombies in George Romero’s movies are us. They’re hungry. Monsters are us, the dangerous parts of us. The part that wants to destroy; the part of us with the reptile brain. The part of us that’s vicious and cruel. We express these in our stories as these monsters out there.”

—From a 2011 interview with the Buenos Aires Herald

17. ON MOVIES AS A SENSORY EXPERIENCE

“A movie’s not just the pictures. It’s the story and it’s the perspective and it’s the tempo and it’s the silence and it’s the music—it’s all the stuff that’s going on. All the sensory stuff. Sometimes you can get a lot of suspense going in a non-horror film. It all depends. But, look, if there was one secret way of doing a horror movie then everybody would be doing it.”

—From a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club

18. ON THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF HORROR

"Horror is a universal language; we're all afraid. We're born afraid, we're all afraid of things: death, disfigurement, loss of a loved one. Everything that I'm afraid of, you're afraid of and vice versa. So everybody feels fear and suspense. We were little kids once and so it's taking that basic human condition and emotion and just f*cking with it and playing with it. You can invent new horrors."

—From a 2015 interview with Interview Magazine

19. ON THE REMAKE TREND

“It’s a brand new world out there in terms of trying to get advertising. There’s so much going on that if you come up with a movie that people have never heard of they don’t pay attention to it—no matter how good it is. So it becomes, 'Let’s remake something that maybe rings a bell and that you’ve heard of before.' That way, you’re already ahead. I’m flattered, but I understand what’s going on. They’re picking everything to remake. I think they’ve just run down the list of other titles and have finally got to mine.”

—From a 2007 interview with MovieMaker Magazine

20. ON THE LASTING INFLUENCE OF HALLOWEEN

“I didn’t think there was any more story [to Halloween], and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween—there shouldn’t have been any more! I’m flattered by the fact that people want to remake them, but they remake everything these days, so it doesn’t make me that special. But Michael Myers was an absence of character. And yet all the sequels are trying to explain that. That’s silliness—it just misses the whole point of the first movie, to me. He’s part person, part supernatural force. The sequels rooted around in motivation. I thought that was a mistake. However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six-pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more."

—From a 2014 interview with Deadline

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15 Surprising Facts About Half Baked
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

You may have known these facts about Half Baked—Tamra Davis's stoner comedy starring Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Díaz, and Jim Breuer—at one point. But it’s easy to see how the film, which was released 20 years ago, could make viewers a little forgetful.

1. THE SCRIPT WAS A TEAM EFFORT.

Half Baked was written by star Dave Chappelle and his writing partner Neal Brennan. Five years later, the duo would go on to co-create Chappelle’s Show for Comedy Central. (Brennan even has a cameo in Half Baked as the cashier at the burger joint where Scarface works.)

2. NEW YORK CITY WAS A KEY INSPIRATION.

Chappelle was inspired to write Half Baked after a friend told him about New York City drug dealers who conveniently deliver illicit substances to customers’ apartments.

3. THE OPENING SCENE WAS A RISK FOR THE STUDIO.

The studio originally wanted to cut the opening scene showing kids smoking marijuana and getting the munchies, but decided to keep it after audiences at test screenings found it hilarious.

4. DIRECTING IT WAS A NO-BRAINER FOR TAMRA DAVIS.

Tamra Davis
Francois Durand/Getty Images

It's a good thing that opening scene stayed in, as it's what sold Tamra Davis on the project. In fact, she only read 10 pages of Chappelle and Brennan’s script before accepting the directing job.

"The reason why I wanted to do this movie was because the opening scene is so funny," she told Mass Appeal in 2017. "And they were like, 'No, it sends a bad message, kids smoking pot.' I was like, 'Can I screen the movie? Nobody’s ever seen this movie, can we look at it first and see how the movie plays before you guys start giving me cuts?'"

5. THE FILM HAS A MUSIC VIDEO PEDIGREE.

Davis is also humorously listed as the director of Sir Smoka Lot’s “Samson Gets Me Lifted” music video in the film. Prior to directing feature films like Half Baked and Billy Madison, Davis directed more than 30 actual music videos, including Tone Lōc’s “Wild Thing” and Hanson’s “MMMBop.”

6. MOST OF "NEW YORK" IS REALLY TORONTO.

The film was shot over 40 days, primarily in Toronto. Three days of exterior shooting were done in New York to feature landmarks like Washington Square Park.

7. PRODUCERS PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS ON CAMEOS.

Tracy Morgan makes a cameo as the VJ who introduces Sir Smoka Lot’s music video. Other cameos in the film include Jon Stewart, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg, Janeane Garofalo, and Bob Saget.

8. THERE WAS A REAL GUY ON THE COUCH.

The Guy on the Couch was inspired by a friend of Chappelle’s who constantly crashed on Chappelle’s couch while he and Brennan toiled away at writing the screenplay. In the film, the role of the Guy went to comedian Steven Wright.

9. THE BEASTIE BOYS INSPIRED THE FILM'S DESIGN.

Davis drew inspiration of the prop and color design of the guys’ apartment from the Beastie Boys’ Grand Royal Recording Studios. The connection makes sense, as Davis was married to Mike D of the Beastie Boys.

10. THE PRISON HAD VERY CLEAN WATER.

The exterior of the prison where Kenny is locked up is actually the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto. (The same facility played the role of Elsinore Brewery in 1983's Strange Brew.)  Some prison interiors, including the cafeteria scenes, where shot in an actual prison.

11. THE DIRECTOR HAS A TINY CAMEO.

All the acting with Killer’s fake dog paws was done on-set by Davis.

12. THE CAST GOT GREAT SOUVENIRS.

Many members of the cast and crew kept blocks of the fake medicinal marijuana as a joke after production wrapped.

13. NO, THAT'S NOT JERRY GARCIA.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Jerry Garcia did not appear in Half Baked. Garcia is played by impersonator David Bluestein.

14. ALL THAT "POT" WAS TOBACCO.

The actors smoked a tobacco-based substitute to stand in for marijuana in the film (though there are some rumors that the scene featuring Snoop Dogg featured real marijuana).

15. IT ALMOST HAD A DARKER ENDING.

The original ending of the movie was supposed to be much darker. In it, Thurgood abandoned his girlfriend Mary Jane and jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge after the joint he threw away.

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