Star Wars :Re-releases

In 1997, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi were re-mastered and theatrically re-released as the "Special Editions." For the re-release, in addition to extensive clean-up and restoration work, Lucas also made a number of changes to the films in order to "finish the film the way it was meant to be" (as Lucas said in a September 2004 interview with the associated press). Many of Lucas' changes for the Special Editions were cosmetic, generally adding special effects which weren't originally possible. Other changes, however, are considered to have affected plot or characterdevelopment. These changes, such as the change often referred to by fans as "Han shot first," have proven to be controversial, inciting considerable criticism of George Lucas by fans, and was one of the first causes of what came to be known as Lucas Bashing.

In 2004, in addition to an extensive and comprehensive hi-definition digital cleanup and restoration job by Lowry Digital, the original films were changed once again for their release on DVD. In these new versions of the films, in addition to new scenes and major image adjustments designed to make the films visually resemble the prequels, a few changes which had been made for the 1997 Special Editions were removed. With this release, Lucasfilm created a new high-definition master of the films, which will be used in future releases as well.

Although the original films have undergone significant alterations over the years, the prequel films have received only minor changes from their theatrical versions. The DVD releases of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith have had such elements altered as small additions of scenes, touch-ups in effects, and small sound changes.

At a ShoWest convention in 2005, George Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he is planning to release all six films back in cinemas in a new 3-D film format, beginning with A New Hope in 2007. Lucas has also hinted in the past that he will release his definitive, often called "archival" editions of all six Star Wars films on a next-generation home-video format in 2007. (It will most likely be the "Blu-ray Disc," as 20th Century Fox prefers this format.) This release would coincide with, and celebrate, the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars saga.

For many years, Lucas has stated that the original, unaltered versions of the trilogy would never be released again, having been released for the last time on VHS and Laserdisc in 1995. However, on May 3, 2006, Lucasfilm announced on the official Star Wars site that due to "overwhelming demand", the original versions would be released on DVD on September 12, 2006. Each film will be released as a two-disc set with the 2004 versions of the films on one disc, and the original, unaltered film on the second disc. The set would only be available until December 31, 2006 and then withdrawn from the market. There has been great controversy surrounding this release, however, as it has been revealed that the DVDs will feature non-anamorphic versions of the original, unaltered films based on laserdisc releases from 1993 (as opposed to newly-remastered, film-based transfers). As non-anamorphic transfers fail to make full use of the resolution available on widescreen HDTV sets, many fans were upset over this choice.

In response to fan outcry over the perceived mis-treament of the original cuts, Lucasfilm representatives stated that new, anamorphic transfers of the original cuts cannot be made, as the original negatives of the theatrical cuts (from which the anamorphic transfers would typically be made) no longer exist. This created further anger, as fans worldwide discovered that George Lucas himself had during the 1990s ordered that as many of the existing 35 millimeter copies of the film as could be found be destroyed; the claimed inability to locate a high quality source from which to make anamorphic transfers is Lucas' own fault.

In a May 2006 posting, the editor of The Digital Bits, a DVD enthusiast website, noted that not only are there still existing 35 millimeter copies of the films in existence, but that one of them is owned by Robert A. Harris, one of the world's renowned film archivists and the owner of Film Preserve, a highly lauded company specializing in the digital transfer and restoration of 35 millimeter film stock. Harris, who is a contributor to the site, submitted a letter stating that he is positive that anamorphic, high definition transfers of the films can be made along with a "master" presentation negative from which new 35 millimeter reels can be made. As of yet, the letter (a copy of which was sent directly to Lucasfilm) has gone unanswered.

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