Rumours swirled over the weekend that fans of Star Wars may finally see the original trilogy released on Blu-Ray without all of George Lucas' "improvements" on board. It's a long shot, and I'm left wondering if it'll ever happen.
Comicbook.com broke the story over the weekend, claiming "sources" that said that there were plans within Disney and Lucasfilm to release an unaltered cut version of the first Star Wars trilogy to Blu-Ray.
You know, Star Wars, the way it should be.
There's not a lot of detail around the whens and whyfores of the plan, however, and there are some serious stumbling blocks along the way. As Den Of Geek points out, while Disney owns the Star Wars IP, that doesn't mean they own the original trilogy. Distribution rights still rest with 20th Century Fox through to 2020, and any release would have to cut Fox in on a cut of the moolah. Again, that's not an impossible scenario, although most sources do suggest that if there's one sticking point when dealing with Disney it's the idea that they might share cash with anyone unless they absolutely have to. By waiting six years, Disney might just avoid that roadblock entirely.
Then again, if they go down that road, there's another problem to consider, and that's the exact target market for yet more Star Wars re-releases.
The exact issue is one of age. If you're of the age to remember Star Wars as it was back in the cinema in 1977, then I'm sorry to tell you that you're no longer particularly young.
Yeah, I know, it stings. It stings me, too.
The thing there is that the "original" versions of Star Wars have the greatest appeal for those who were there at the time, seeing them as they were.
As time passes, the "importance" of those editions, leaving aside issues of historical research, diminishes, because while there will clearly be a Star Wars audience for a long time to come, younger viewers are more likely to not fuss about the differences in the "special editions".
The problem compounds, because if you're old enough to remember and fondly recall original Star Wars, then the odds are rather good that you've already bought Star Wars previously.
I know I have. From where I'm sitting I could throw a stormtrooper toy at a couple of different DVD editions and the Blu-Ray versions to boot. I've still got the original VHS releases too, and technically as long as they don't have copy protection on them (I haven't checked) I could legally rip those to DVD as well as long as I retain ownership of those tapes.
I'm keen on Star Wars, in other words, but the more you release a movie and make it widely available, the less "value" it has. Disney's no stranger to this concept, which is why it has the whole "Disney Vault" for its classic animation properties. If you're after a copy of every classic Disney movie, you're compelled to buy them when Disney makes them available, because they only make them available for limited release periods.
Disney hasn't had that kind of control over Star Wars previously, but it does now, and it faces the issue that for every diehard Star Wars fan who longs for an HD version of the original trilogy in original format, there'll be another slightly less keen fan who may well look at the various DVD releases, Blu-Ray releases, Laserdisc releases and VHS releases and figure they've got enough copies of those particular movies, especially if a "remastered" version of just three films came in over, say, $100 when first released.
By the time you get past the various parties with commercial interest in the profits from releasing the original trilogy, you've got to wonder if there would be enough people willing to buy them yet again in the first place.
The good news, and simultaneously bad news for this plan is that you don't entirely have to wait. The elephant in the room here are Harmy's "Despecialized" HD versions of the original trilogy. These are fan-assembled cuts and recreations of the original trilogy, and they're quite stunning to look at despite the fact that they're 100 per cent illegitimate.
They're a plus to the Star Wars fanatic fan, because they're a good approximation of what could be done with the right sources, but again while they're often touted as "proof" that there would be interest in proper rereleases, I suspect they're more of a barrier than a proof.
For a start, those who have downloaded the despecialized editions already have "good" copies of the movies. What happens if the remasters aren't viewed as being "as good" as Harmy's work? That'll reverberate online, and suddenly the sales for the rereleases could dip.
Equally, I do wonder what would happen if the rereleases included parts of Harmy's work, or work that was indistinguishable from it? At a technical level there'd be almost no copyright infringement, because it's not as though Harmy has any rights to the core material. At the same time, that kind of thing would leave a bad taste in the mouths of many fans.
I don't know any more than anyone else outside of Disney what's being planned for the original trilogy, but what I do know is that the longer they wait, the less vital those releases become.