A decade ago, on store shelves near and wide, fans had their last chance to obtain the uncut theatrical versions of the Star Wars trilogy. Packaged with the 2004 remasters of the second wave of Special Edition alterations that George Lucas added on top of the 1997 wave of alterations, the original Star Wars were ported over from the Full Screen 1993 laserdiscs with less than optimal quality; but they were there. I personally own all three, and I bought them knowing that while it may not be a perfect copy (and I was getting screwed out of the special features the Special Edition box set came with,) I'd have a copy of those original films I fell in love with in a contemporary format. Now, just as we're about to see a new chapter begin in the Star Wars saga, we might be able to see those films again.
Comic Book.com ran a rumor this weekend that they claim is "exclusive" knowledge that the Star Wars trilogy is being planned for an unaltered release, all thanks to Disney. Make no mistake, the claim is that these are going to be 100% unaltered (save for picture quality), with all of the original effects and scenes we grew up watching present and accounted for. Of course, there was no specific release date mentioned by Comic Book.com, citing "the challenges Disney has encountered in pulling everything together."
Looking at the ownership quagmire that these films are in, challenge doesn't even begin to cover what lies ahead, should Disney seriously be planning to release these films.
There are three parties that have to agree in order to have an unaltered Blu Ray release of the classic Star Wars Trilogy. Those three parties are George Lucas (the creator of the series,) 20th Century Fox (the company that previously distributed the series), and Walt Disney Studios (the current owner of Lucasfilm and Star Wars). Each of these three parties has varying stakes in the series, and each can block the other at every turn the road to re-release takes. In the case of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, it's completely owned by 20th Century Fox, as they funded and distributed the film. However, Fox only has the distribution rights to Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI – Return Of The Jedi (as well as the entire Prequel Trilogy,) and they have them until 2020. Disney actually owns the rights to the films, so anything Empire or Jedi related, as far as merchandising and intellectual property are concerned, belongs to Disney. They just can't release the films theatrically, non-theatrically, and on home video.
Therein lies the first hurdle: 20th Century Fox and Disney have to make a deal where the distribution rights for Episodes V and VI, as well as all of the rights for Episode IV, are square in the possession of Disney. Sure, Fox could make a deal where they grant special access to the films (much like Universal did with The Incredible Hulk for the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase I box set), but Disney's not going to want that. They'll pay any price and probably make any deal to get those films. Which means that Fox is probably going to part with those rights for one of two things: a deal where Fox gets to keep its foothold in the Marvel universe for as long as they like, or an obscene amount of money. If I were Fox, I'd be playing for the Marvel rights. Once all of that is out of the way, it should be easy peasy to get on with the Skywalker Saga – Part I box set, right?
Wrong. Click onto the next page to see just what the hold up is all about.