A deleted scene is footage that has been removed from the final version of a film or television show.
A related term is extended scene, the longer version of a scene that was shortened for the final version of the film. Often, extended scenes are included in collections of deleted scenes or are referred to as deleted scenes themselves, as is the case with, for instance, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Serenity.
Scenes are often removed from films at the request of a studio or network, or to reduce running time or to improve narrative flow.
The studio or network planning to air or distribute it may be uncomfortable with a certain scene. It may ask for it be altered, removed, or replaced.
That is most common in the production of television series since networks and channels often must be mindful of how viewers, critics, or censors will react to programming. There may be a fear of losing ratings, being punished by fines or otherwise, or having trouble finding advertisers.
Concerns about running time may also cause scenes to be removed or shortened.
In feature films, scenes may be cut to reduce the length of the film's theatrical cut. In television serials, however, running time becomes an even greater concern because of the strict timeslot limitations, especially on channels supported by advertisements, and there may be only 20 minutes of actual show per half-hour timeslot. Depending on the station and the particular format of the show, that may or may not include opening credits or closing credits; many ad-supported stations now "squish" the closing credits or force them into a split-screen to show more advertising. Most programs are in either a half-hour or a one-hour timeslot. That forces producers of television serials to break up the acts in a manner that will (hopefully) make the viewer want to continue watching after the ad break and to avoid exceeding the stricter running time limits.
Though the quality of the initial and the final cuts of a film is subjective, a scene or version of a scene in a film may have an adverse effect on the film as a whole. It may slow the film down, provide unnecessary details or exposition, or even explain points that should be implied or said more subtly. It is common to remove such scenes at the editing level, but they may be released on the home video release, as a bonus feature.
There are at least a few examples, including a number of the deleted scenes on the DVD release of the sequel film Serenity (in fact, the audio commentary on the DVD's deleted scenes collection quite often mentions the plot or the tension being disrupted or slowed by including a scene or too much expositional as the main reason for the scene's removal from the final theatrical cut. Another well known example is the cocoon sequence in the film Alien. The scene added a lot of information about the fate of several crew members and new information on the life cycle of the creature, but it was ultimately deleted, as it was thought to slow down and to disrupt the tension of the end of the film.
Deleted or extended scenes may be in any of several different formats. They may or may not feature finished special effects (especially in science fiction and fantasy films in which visual effects are more expensive), and the film quality may or may not be the same as in the rest of the film, but that may depend only on how much post-production editing was done.
Additionally, deleted scenes of animated films may not be in the form of a fully animated scene but instead be included in the form of an animatic or a blooper form, as is the case with the deleted scenes on the DVD release of Pixar's Toy Story and Finding Nemo.