In the film industry, a film is considered shelved if it is not released for public viewing after filming has started, or even completed.
A film can be shelved for a number of reasons:
- A film may receive poor reaction from test audiences and other critics, prompting film producers to choose to never release the film, instead of spending additional money to print and promote it.
- A film may also go over budget and not find funders, causing the film's producer to abandon the film instead of completing it.
- In other cases, a film may be considered too controversial for a release, and is unable to find a distributor.
- One of the main actors died or resigned while the film was in production.
- A film may be become embroiled in legal battles, such as illegal funding means.
- A film may have been produced only to fulfil a legal obligation, such as to fulfil a contract or keep an intellectual property alive.
The term "shelved" may refer to other entertainment media, such as music albums (e.g. Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine) and novels.
Famous shelved films
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, was completed in November 1963 but it was only released in January 1964, due to the assassination of JFK.
- The Adventures of Pluto Nash, a comedy film starring Eddie Murphy, was completed in 2000. Warner Bros. shelved the film for nearly two years before finally releasing it in August 2002. Pluto Nash soon gained infamy as one of the most expensive box office bombs in Hollywood history.
- Arrive Alive was supposed to be a comedy film starring Willem Dafoe as a hotel manager mixed up in various scams and Joan Cusack as his girlfriend, but was cancelled after a week's filming when the producer Art Linson decided it wasn't as funny as he thought it would be.
- Being Human a Robin Williams vehicle commissioned by David Puttnam when running Columbia Pictures. Completed in 1989 after Puttnam had been ousted Columbia's new owners shelved the film until 1993.
- Brenda Starr was slated for release in 1986 but shelved until 1989 due to litigation; the film was based on a comic strip and starred Brooke Shields in the title role.
- Creation demonstrated the stop-motion effects of Willis O'Brien, who later went on to complete the effects for King Kong. This pilot film was never completed, though some surviving prints still exist.
- Collateral Damage, an action film featuring hijacking of aircraft and bombing of large buildings, was scheduled for release in October 2001. However it was shelved following the September 11 terrorist attacks and was finally released later in 2002.
- Dark Blood was cancelled halfway through filming due to the death of its star River Phoenix.
- The Day the Clown Cried, an early 1970s film about Nazi concentration camps directed by Jerry Lewis. Some bits of behind-the-scenes-footage have been found, as well as production stills.
- The Devil and Daniel Webster (2003) was eventually screened at film festivals, then scheduled for release in 2007 under the changed title Shortcut to Happiness.
- Fantastic Four, a 1994 film produced by Roger Corman that was never intended to be commercially released. Bootlegs of the film, however, leaked onto the internet and are available on VHS and on YouTube.
- House of 1000 Corpses was completed in 1999 or 2000, but was unable to find distribution until 2003 due to its violent subject matter.
- I Love Lucy, a feature film version of the popular sitcom which combined three episodes with new scenes added. MGM demanded the film be shelved because they felt it would diminish interest in The Long, Long Trailer. After one test screening, the film was shelved and forgotten.
- Knockaround Guys was completed in 1999, but was not released until 2001, to capitalize on actor Vin Diesel's popularity.
- The Man Who Killed Don Quixote was a film which commenced filming in 2000 but was shelved after 2 weeks. It was going to be directed by Terry Gilliam but was cancelled when star Jean Rochefort was injured. The "behind the scenes" featurette for the DVD became the basis for the documentary Lost in La Mancha.
- O, completed in 1999, but was not released until 2001 because of the Columbine High School massacre.
- Playing God was finished in 1995 but not released until 1997 due to negative reactions from test audiences.
- RoboCop 3 was filmed in 1991, but shelved and not released until 1993, due to Orion's bankruptcy. Bootleg copies showed up several years before the official release.
- Robotech the Movie: The Untold Story, a film that splices together footage from the OAV Megazone 23 and the Southern Cross segment of the Robotech TV series, was intended as a side story in the Robotech Universe. Producer Carl Macek initially intended to create a straight adaptation of Megazone 23, which would have been slightly re-written to take place in the Robotech Universe. He was reportedly pressured by Cannon Films into including more action scenes, thus the decision to splice Southern Cross battle footage into the final product. This movie showed only for two weeks in Mesquite, Texas and was shelved. The film did get a general release in South America, however.
- Something's Got to Give, a film left unfinished by the death of Marilyn Monroe.
- The Thief and the Cobbler, an animated epic by Richard Williams in progress in the late 1960's, but left shelved for a long time due to his other works being made. Was intended for a 1991 release by Warner Bros., but since Disney's own "Thief and the Cobbler" named Aladdin was in progress, Warner Bros. dropped the deal with Richard Williams's work. So the film was completed faster and was released for the UK in 1994 and for both US and Canada in 1995, with critically panned reviews saying that it's a ripoff of Aladdin. Remastered editions of the unfinished versions are available in bootlegged DVDs or on YouTube.
- Principal photography on Jet Pilot with stars John Wayne and Janet Leigh was completed in 1950, but the film was not released until 1957 due to producer Howard Hughes.