Two weeks ago, it was announced that Cabin in the Woods, the horror flick produced and co-written by Joss Whedon, would finally get a release date after years of sitting on the shelf. It’s set for April 2012. Then yesterday, in even more surprising news, a release date was miraculously set for Margaret, Kenneth Lonergan’s long-delayed follow-up to You Can Count on Me. That film, which stars Matt Damon and Anna Paquin, has been delayed now for six years, mostly because Lonergan couldn’t finish the edit, which led to a lot of squabbles with the studio. Those two movies — along with Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which also recently received a release date — were among the list of the Six Highly Anticipated Films You May Never Get to See, which we ran back in May.
However, long delays have rarely been kind to a film’s box-office prospects, and if history is any indication, the prospects for Margaret, Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale, although I do expect Cabin in the Woods to be one of the few exceptions (like Outlaw below) to buck the trend. Here are 18 other films that were similarly delayed — between two and 26 years — and the box-office outcomes, where available.
Trick r’ Treat: The horror film, eventually very well received by critics was delayed for two years before heading straight-to-DVD. The reason for the delay may have had something to do with the fact that it came from the writer of Superman Returns, and the studio went cold on it after the release of Superman.
Pluto Nash: This Eddie Murphy comedy was delayed for two years because no one had any confidence in the $100 million film. For good reason, it turns out. It made $4 million at the box office and went down as one of the biggest bombs in box-office history.
View from the Top: The airline romantic comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo was pushed back 2 years due to the events of September 11th. When it was finally released, it only managed $15 million on a $30 million budget. It was also poorly received by critics (14 percent on the Tomatometer).
The Outlaw: This 1943 Howard Hughes film had its wide release pushed back five years due to censorship concerns. It was Jane Russell’s film debut, and Hughes’ focus on Russell’s bosom drew a lot of criticism from the ratings board. However, Hughes was able to capitalize on those censorship concerns, and the film would eventually perform well at the box-office upon its release.
Blue Sky: Blue Sky was delayed for three years because of the bankruptcy of Orion pictures. After it’s release, it only managed $3.3 million, but Jessica Lange won an Oscar for her performance.
Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer: Because of the intense depictions of violence in the film, it was delayed for four years because the MPAA wouldn’t give it an R-rating. Roger Ebert eventually helped lobby the MPAA and, once it was released, the well-received John McNaughton film managed $600,000 at the box office only only a $100,000 budget.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation: A very tenuous second sequel to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this film was delayed for three years both because it was terrile and because an embarassed Matthew McConaughey put pressure on the studio not to release it. After the success of Jerry Maguire, the studio released it anyway because of the sudden popularity of the film’s other star, Renee Zellwegger. The film made less than $200,000 at the box office.
Fanboys: Despite the immense amount of buzz around Fanboy, mostly thanks to Comic-Con hype and the subject matter, the film was delayed three years. It eventually fizzled upon release, earning less than $1 million.
Take Me Home Tonight: The 80’s set teen comedy, starring Topher Grace, was delayed for four years, apparently due to concerns over the cocaine use in the film (which I barely recall). It didn’t do well in theaters (less than $7 million), but I think it’s finding a guilty-pleasure audience on DVD now.
Case 39: Case 39 sat on the shelf for four years. The film — which also starred Renee Zellwegger — wasn’t released until co-star Bradley Cooper hit it big with The Hangover. It apparently helped; the film, panned by critics, made $28 million on a $27 million budget.
Prozac Nation: Although the Elizabeth Wurtzel memoir on which it was based was generation-defining, the Christina Ricci film was held for five years and dumped onto DVD.
Return to Sleepaway Camp: It took five years for this film to finally be released, although it went straight to video. It was also Isaac Hayes’ last film, even though it was shot five years before he died.
Brenda Starr: This adventure film, based on the Dale Messick comic strip and starring Brooke Shields, was delayed for six years. It was also not a very good. It only made $30,000 at the box office.
Shortcut to Happiness: Shortcut to Happiness, directed and starring Alec Baldwin, also featured Jennifer Love Hewitt. It on the shelf for six years due to financial difficulties. It cost $35 million to make; it made $600,000 overseas and was never released theatrically in the United States.
Jet Pilot: The John Wayne film was delayed for seven years because it took several directors — Josef von Sternberg, Jules Furthman, Philip Cochran, Ed Killy, Byron Haskin, Don Siege and Howard Hughes — to eventually finish the film. There are no box-office numbers available, but it was apparently Howard Hughes’ favorite film.
The Plot Against Harry (20 years): The film was shot in the 1960s and wasn’t given a proper release until 1989. The well-received Michael Roemer film made $265,000.
Rabid Dogs/Kidnapped: The film, finished in 1974, wasn’t released until 1997 because it was seized by the courts when the bankrolling studio went bankrupt.
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats: It was 26 before Death Bed: The Bed that Eats was eventually released straight to DVD. However, thanks in part to a Patton Oswalt bit, the movie found cult status from pirated copies long before its release.