The Internet is abuzz with rumors that Disney intends to re-release the original, unaltered Star Wars trilogy in a remastered Blu-Ray box set – and in time for the release of Episode VII, no less. Could it really be true?
The speculation kicked of earlier today when Comicbook.com claimed to have it on good authority ("two independent reliable sources") that the plan to re-release the unaltered trilogy is already in motion:
According to our sources, Disney has plans to release the original cut of the Star Wars trilogy on Blu-ray. Our sources indicate that the project has been under way for quite some time, but it's been challenging because of some damage to the original negatives they are utilizing. The goal is to release A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of Jedi in their complete, unaltered, original form without the redone special edition SFX.
Exciting! But there's a glaring issue: Disney doesn't own rights the original trilogy. As Hollywood Reporter clarified back when Disney purchased Lucasfilms, those films belong to Fox:
Fox owns distribution rights to the original Star Wars, No. 4 in the series, in perpetuity in all media worldwide. And as for the five subsequent movies, Fox has theatrical, nontheatrical, and home video rights worldwide through May 2020.
Over at Badass Digest, Devin Faraci spells out what that means for everyone hoping for a remastered version of the original original trilogy:
The rights to Empire and Jedi and the Prequels will revert to Lucasfilm (and thus Disney) in 2020, but Fox will retain the rights to Star Wars forever. In perpetuity. And they'll never give it up. Will they work with Disney to do some sort of release? Sure - there's a lot of money to be made. But unless a deal has been quietly made to give Disney the distribution rights to the original trilogy, there's no chance the Mouse House is working on a rerelease. Now, if the report said that Fox was working on a new Blu, I might believe it. But if the sources don't even know who owns the movies, how can they know anything about remastering or release plans for them?
Another hurdle to seeing these films released? George Lucas himself. When Ars Technica looked into the feasibility of a Disney-sanctioned re-release back in May, they dug up a quote from Lucas that suggests he's very closed off to the idea. This comes from a decade-old interview with The Today Show, and is reportedly the last time Lucas had anything definitive to say on the matter:
The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I'm not going to spend the—we're talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn't really exist anymore. It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it.
The upshot? Notwithstanding Comicbook.com's sources, we're skeptical. This is a rumor – a rumor we want desperately to believe – but as of right now we're not holding our breath.
That said, we'll obviously keep you posted.