In the ongoing time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the most discussed topic in the film community is the massive amount of 2020 films that are having release dates pushed back. Blockbusters like “Black Widow” and “No Time to Die” and prestige awards-friendly fare like “The French Dispatch” alike are being pushed into the later summer/fall of 2020, or even into 2021 due to the mass closure of theaters. Given this immensely current trend, we think it is necessary to look back at films that, despite delayed releases, turned out to be satisfying in the end.
The most famous recent example of this would be James Gray‘s “Ad Astra.” Initially scheduled for a 2018 release, it was eventually pushed back to January 2019, then again to May 2019, and finally to September of 2019 after a Venice bow. The film premiered to strong reviews and developed a devoted fanbase, but it still only managed a $132.8 million box office haul off of an $80-$100 million production budget. Nonetheless, “Ad Astra” can be seen as a minor success despite its troubled history, and will likely continue to grow in esteem as more people see it on home release.
Another notoriously delayed film was Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life.” Shot in 2008, and initially slated for a Christmas 2009 release, the film did not make the date. Cannes 2010 was then earmarked for a premiere, but it was again passed. Eventually, the film was acquired by Fox Searchlight in late 2010 and premiered on May 16, 2011, at Cannes. It was quite polarizing at first, with many raves considering it a masterpiece while others being entirely baffled by it. Nonetheless, it went on to gross $61.7 million on a $32 million budget and received three Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
The most successful example of a film with a notoriously delayed release in the 2010s, however, would have to be George Miller‘s masterpiece “Mad Max: Fury Road.” After spending over a decade in development hell, the long-awaited reboot of the “Mad Max” franchise was supposed to start filming in 2010 for a 2012 release. But, difficulties in pre-production delayed principal photography until June of 2012. It was shot through December of that year, with reshoots taking place in 2013. With 480 hours of footage shot, it took three months to watch in its entirety and required over a year of post-production. When it was finally released in May of 2015, “Mad Max: Fury Road” was praised for its ambition, scale, and insanely unique editing and visual style. It went on to make $374.7 million at the box office and win a whopping 6 Academy Awards out of 10 nominations, making it a rousing success despite its difficulties getting to the screen.