My Two Cents

Original theatrical Star Wars for the franchise’s 40th anniversary? It’s possible. [Update: But unlikely.]

February 23, 2017 - 4:13 pm   |   by
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All right, first up today we’ve got a couple more Blu-ray reviews for you: Tim has checked out Lionsgate’s Parents and The Lair of the White Worm, both recently-released entries in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series that are well worth your time. Be sure to give them a look.

Now then…

We’ve been saying for a while now that, once Disney took over the Star Wars franchise, it was inevitable that the original theatrical versions of the Star Wars films would be released at some point. Disney, as a studio, is very disciplined in taking care to meticulously preserve all of the valuable film assets in their vault. So this idea that those original films no longer exist, as suggested by George Lucas himself at one point, is hogwash. [Read on here…]

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Not long after Disney’s purchase of the franchise, our industry sources indicated to us that those original film elements would be properly preserved and that, at some point in the future, they would likely see the light of day. Given that 2017 represents the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars, there’s certainly no better opportunity to do something truly special to celebrate the film. What better way could there be than bringing that original theatrical vision back to the world?

Now... the fine (and fun) Making Star Wars website is reporting that their sources have been telling them much the same thing. To their credit, they’re reporting is properly qualified as RUMOR, as ours has always been. It must always be repeated: Nothing is set in stone until the studio makes an official announcement and even then, it’s not 100% real until you have the disc in your hands. That said, we suspect there’s at least a chance you could see something along the lines of an original re-issue this year and so, it seems, does Jason Ward, the editor of Making Star Wars.

One thing we do know for sure is that Lucasfilm has a new 4K scan of the of the film. That was essentially confirmed back in December by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards (as we reported here). The original theatrical version must certainly still exist – even if what Edwards saw was a 4K-updated version of the latest Special Edition (as was later tweeted by Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo, who has also commented again today), the company would still have original theatrical film elements available, not to mention IPs, dupe negatives, and (worst case) release prints.

Now, I would love to think that Disney would release Star Wars in 4K with HDR this year, but I don’t know if they’d go that far (although the studio would certainly make a splash by doing so). But a truly-remastered Blu-ray release of the original films would be pretty terrific too, though it’s hard to gauge the likelihood of that with any real accuracy. Nevertheless, we’re going to shake the trees and see what we can learn.

[UPDATE: Refer to THIS POST for more definitive updated information on this issue.]

I’m reminded, as I type this post today, that the very first copy of the original Star Wars I ever owned was a used rental copy of the film on full frame VHS, back in the mid 1980s, and I paid $60 for it. Not so many years later, I purchased the elaborate Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Edition THX box set of CAV laserdiscs and paid a pretty penny for that too. I also purchased the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition CLV box set a couple years after that. And yes, of course, I have all of the various DVD and Blu-ray releases since – many of which we here at The Bits actively campaigned to see released. And I’m the proud owner of a USB thumb drive containing Harmy’s Despecialized Versions in 720p (if you haven’t seen them, you can learn more about them here and here). But I’ve got at least one more purchase in me, of those original films, provided they’re properly remastered in 1080p or better yet 2160p (4K).

IF anything were going to happen, the timeframe for the release would perhaps be May for a theatrical re-issue and November-ish for a disc release, in time for Black Friday shopping and prior to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in theaters. And the place it’s likely to be officially announced would be the Star Wars Celebration convention in Orlando (April 13-16). So we should know more about whatever Disney may have planned soon.

Whatever happens, fans need to not get their panties in a bunch. Disney has certainly protected those original film elements, whatever they end up doing with them. And Harmy’s Despecialized exits for all of us to enjoy in the meantime. As for the 40th Anniversary, we shall see...

[Editor’s Note: For all those of you who may be tempted to respond: “But Fox owns the original Star Wars film, not Disney,” do keep in mind that anything done officially related to the 40th anniversary of the original Star Wars – involving the actual film – would be a joint effort between Disney and Fox. Studios can and do work together on complicated projects all the time. People swore up and down that the original 1960s Batman TV series would never be released again because Fox owns the actual series while Warner Bros. owns DC and the Batman rights, and it certainly WAS impossible... until suddenly it DID happen after all. And the resulting Blu-ray box set? It doesn’t have the Fox logo on it. Just the Warner logo. All worth keeping in mind.]

- Bill Hunt


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