There are many reasons a film’s release date can be pushed back, from COVID-19 restrictions to contract disputes. While a continuous timeline seems ideal for everyone involved, things don’t always go as planned. These obstacles test the resilience of creative teams as much as they test the patience of the public.
Pre-production, shooting, editing and release can be a seamless transition, but this is often not the case. There are times when a film collects dust, hidden away for months and sometimes years after shooting. Other times its creation is interrupted during filming or even before production begins, slowly pushing the project away from the finish line. Regardless of why a movie gets delayed, one thing can be agreed upon by any production crew: Getting things right is sometimes tough. The logistics of making a film that audiences will hopefully consider a work of art are challenging. Unfortunately for filmmakers, a myriad of factors come into play that weigh on the production. Whether it’s budget issues, script issues, safety issues, or another curveball not explained by the producers, something that appears to be a minor hiccup can drastically alter a film’s readiness.
At the turn of the decade, hopes of a film being released on time were bleak due to strict pandemic safety guidelines. It was truly an unprecedented time in Hollywood that shook up the entertainment industry. Until 2020, there was nothing stopping film projects like regulations on large gatherings and social distancing. Hotly anticipated productions like ‘The Batman’ and ‘Black Widow’ were put on hold as crews scrambled to adjust to a world in crisis.
Most films only face a year or two of delays, but others endure much longer suffering. Movies like “Accidental Love” were shelved three times more – seven years in that case – before reemerging. Some projects drift away only to be canceled before they are forgotten forever. It goes without saying that films are an investment and a bet. No matter how proactive a production team decides to be, there is no guarantee that their film will hit theaters. Not only is time and money wasted in these instances, but fixing a design that has gone off the rails can cause headaches and heartbreak for artists.
Read on for a list of movies that have significantly exceeded their initial deadlines. It is incomplete and will be updated over time. Also check out IndieWire’s guide to Nightmare Movie Shoots: The Most Grueling Films Ever Made.
“Shortcut to Happiness” (2007) — 6 years
Alec Baldwin’s first attempt at directing didn’t work out well. “Shortcut to Happiness” was Baldwin’s first and final attempt at helming a project, after his initial effort was delayed for six years due to funding issues. Also starring in the film, Baldwin plays a struggling writer who sells his soul for success. After the post-production drama was settled and resolved, Baldwin slowly walked away from the film, removing his name as director and even advising fans to stay away.
“Take Me Home Tonight” (2011) — 4 years
The wild ’80s-set comedy ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ strives for authenticity and has stayed on the shelf because of it according to actor and executive producer Topher Grace. While it may not have been an inaccurate portrayal of the decade, the film’s rampant drug use was a problem for studios that weren’t amused by the myriad depictions of cocaine use.
“‘You can’t make a movie about prohibition without alcohol, and you really can’t make a movie about parties in the ’80s, at these kids’ age, without showing cocaine use,” Grace told MTV.
“Camp Hell” (2010) — 3 years
Everyone can enjoy a low-budget film from time to time, but one that misleads audiences in its advertising and exploits its actors is a little harder to follow. The film’s small $3 million budget is supposedly a major reason why ‘Camp Hell’ took three years to hit theaters after filming. The small production didn’t hesitate to overstate Jesse Eisenberg’s short five-minute screen time, casting him as a major character in its promotion. The Oscar nominee sued Lionsgate for the film’s full budget, feeling that the company used its clout from ‘The Social Network’ to turn a profit.
“As a favor to friends, who were producing and directing a low-budget horror film called ‘Camp Hell,’ Eisenberg agreed to play a small cameo in the film for a day for a minimal fee,” the complaint reads. “‘Camp Hell’ distributors are now attempting to fraudulently deceive and mislead the public and raise millions of dollars by capitalizing on Eisenberg’s newfound fame.”
“Margaret” (2011) — 6 years old
A feud between director and producer is a good way to delay the release of a film. While a shaky battle for power isn’t unheard of in Hollywood, the six years of legal battle between Kenneth Lonergan and Gary Gilbert has garnered the attention of industry leaders with film aces like Martin Scorsese stepping in to moderate and keep the peace. Gilbert, who agreed to finance the film “Margaret,” was appalled by the extensions required for Lonergan to edit the project after filming wrapped in 2005. The financer felt the final director’s cut was “incoherent” and refused to pay his share of the $12.6 million bill he agreed to share with Fox Searchlight. Eventually things were sorted out and ‘Margaret’ was released in 2011 after years of post-production.
“Jet Pilots” (1957) — 8 years
It’s not often that a film is delayed so substantially that its contents become obsolete, but that was the case with “Jet Pilots”: the Cold War novel starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh. The story follows a female Russian spy whose plane is escorted to a US air base where she meets her next victim, Air Force Colonel Jim Shannon. Filming began in 1949 and when it was released eight years later, the “latest” fighter jet technology used at the time was no longer so new, immediately dating the film. Like an archived 1957 New York Times item he says, “Wars have been fought and airplane designs have been improved” from the first shots to the time the film was released.
“The Other Side of the Wind” (2018) — 48 years old
Old enough to be the parent of most of the movies on this list, ‘The Other Side of the Wind’ really takes the cake for production delays. With a whopping 48-year gap from start to finish, director Orson Welles probably would have been grateful that his last film saw the light of day in its 2018 Netflix outing. Welles died in 1985, fifteen years after the start of the shooting and the film was made by its original producer Frank Marshall, who enjoyed working with the late director.
“It was an amazing experience working with him 40 years ago and it will be an honor to help see his vision finally come to fruition on screen,” Marshall said.
“Accidental Love” (2015) — 7 years
Love and relationships can be messy. Making a film about the two was perhaps even more chaotic in this seven-year period between the inception and the release of “Accidental Love”, which was changed from the original title “Nailed”. The cheesy rom-com about a woman advocating for healthcare reform after she can’t afford crucial surgery (leaving her with a nail in her brain, damn it) is truly unbelievable. Despite the talent and experience on set, the far-fetched idea and production turned out to be a nightmare. Repeated disruptions during filming, budget cuts, actor strikes, and even the closure of the initial production company all contributed to the film’s postponement.