Rumor of the Day: Disney to re-release theatrical cuts of original Star Wars trilogy

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Sep 20, 2015, 12:38 PM EDT

Yes, it's that rumor again -- but this time, it's coming from a very credible source.

As we all know, every once in a while there is a flurry of speculation that the original, untouched theatrical cuts of the first three Star Wars movies -- 1977's A New Hope, 1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi -- will finally surface in high-quality editions on Blu-ray and DVD (the original versions were only released once before on DVD, as long out-of-print limited bonus discs in 2006, but they were taken from laser discs and not formatted for widescreen viewing at home). Usually the rumor proves unfounded and those cuts continue to stay locked in an impregnable vault under George Lucas' bed, where he keeps them away from fans out of spite because he prefers his later, "improved" versions.

But when the latest such alert went up Friday night, it made us sit up and pay attention. That's because it came from director John Landis, a close friend of Lucas, who was doing a Q&A at Universal Studios Orlando when this happened, according to Empire magazine's Twitter feed:


Landis, who was there to talk about the new Halloween Horror Nights maze based on his movie An American Werewolf in London, dropped that 100-megaton bombshell while answering a question about whether he would like to go back and alter his own previous movies. Luckily, Blastr's Aaron Sagers happened to be there, and here's his more exact transcription of what Landis said:

"First of all, they wouldn’t let me. George owns his movies, so he can do what he wants ... My personal opinion is George hurt his movies by doing what he did. However, George said to me, 'But they're my movies.' ... I thought, 'That’s fair.' ... Did you know Disney, by the way, is putting out the original Star Wars the way it was. So, you know Disney, they’re like money on the floor."

OK, the first thing to note is that Landis did not say where he got this information, despite Empire reporting he got it from Lucas. The complete, more accurate quote doesn't support that. Nor does Landis get into any further details about when and how the original cuts will be reissued.

Secondly, while Disney now owns Lucasfilm and all Star Wars properties going forward, 20th Century Fox still owns the theatrical, TV and home video distribution rights to The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the prequels through 2020, when they revert back to Lucasfilm. And notice we didn't mention A New Hope; that's because Fox owns the rights to that movie in perpetuity (that's forever in non-legal language).

So, if what Landis said is true, Disney and Fox would have to cut some sort of deal -- with terms no doubt very sweet for Fox -- to make this release happen. Fox, meanwhile, is reissuing the current versions of all six movies on Blu-ray (in new steelbook packaging) this November to tie into December's release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If such a deal took place, would the original theatrical versions be rushed onto those discs? Or would they be re-released yet again?

At this point, all we have to go on is that enigmatic comment from Landis. But if what he said is true -- and he's a more credible source than we've ever had before on this issue -- then the time may soon be at hand when we at last get to see Han shoot first again.

(via Cinemablend/Aaron Sagers)