'Star Wars' saga set for 3D release starting 2012
Films will roll out in order, starting with 'Phantom Menace'Big news on the 3D front.
Sources indicate that George Lucas is set on rereleasing the "Star Wars" franchise in new 3D conversions beginning in 2012. Although 3D versions have been rumored for some time, Lucas purportedly was waiting until there were enough screens available to make the release a sizable event.
Fox, which released all six original "Star Wars" films, also would release the 3D versions.
Episode I, "The Phantom Menace," would be first out of star-dock during early 2012. After that, each film would be released in order at the same time in consecutive years, depending on how well the first rerelease does.
Each conversion takes at least a year to complete, with Lucas overseeing the process to make sure each is as perfect as possible. He has said that the "Avatar" experience convinced him that "Star Wars" is ready for the state-of-the-art 3D treatment.
Starting with "Phantom Menace," Lucasfilm would use several higher-end conversion houses to work on the project. By late winter or early spring in 2012, the exhibition industry should have all the 3D screens anyone could want for such a release.
At present, pics are limited to 2,000-2,500 3D locations owing to an insufficient installed base of projectors and screens. Movie theaters are adding 3D screens at a clip of 500 a month in the U.S. Foreign exhibitors also are pushing into 3D as quickly as possible now that financing for the installations is flowing.
Also pushing the timetable is a potential breakthrough in 3D TV technology. With Samsung penetrating the market with 50,000-plus 3D-equipped sets and Sony recently sending its version to market, the home-viewing experience could be primed for 3D DVD versions of the films by the time the new 3D theatrical releases have run their course.
Lucas purportedly is lining up the theatrical rereleases as a lead-in to the ultimate home-viewing experience. Beyond that, the property would launch to other 3D media.
In the meantime, Lucas plans a comprehensive Blu-ray Disc set of the six films next year, which would include upgraded picture and sound quality, new deleted scenes and special features.
Alex Ben Block, Carl DiOrio and Borys Kit contributed to this report.