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Back before Disney bought the franchise, Lucasfilm was working on re-re-remastered versions of the 6 Star Wars films that were supposed to be released in theaters - this time in 3D!

movie poster

If I remember right, Episode I was released but I lost track of the project and had completely forgotten about it by the time news broke that Disney would be making a sequel trilogy. I assume Disney scrapped the project with the idea that releasing new Star Wars would be better than re-re-re-releasing old Star Wars but I never heard anything official.

Is there any concrete word from Disney/Lucasfilm about what happened to the project and why?

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    I recall seeing TPM 3D in theaters, so yes it was released. – DJ Spicy Deluxe Feb 12 at 22:20
  • @DJSpicyDeluxe - none of the other 5 made it, though. Correct? My question is: What happened and why? – TheIronCheek Feb 12 at 22:21
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The original, official statement on StarWars.com from January 28, 2013, now available only on archive.org:

Lucasfilm has decided to postpone this fall's scheduled release of Star Wars Episodes II and III in 3D. Given the recent development that we are moving forward with a new Star Wars trilogy, we will now focus 100 percent of our efforts on Star Wars: Episode VII in order to ensure the best possible experience for our fans. We will post further information about our 3D release plans at a later date.

Some additional information from Disney's 2013 annual report following the acquisition of Lucasfilm:

...Lucasfilm retained the rights to consumer products related to all of the films and the rights related to television and electronic distribution formats for all of the films, with the exception of the rights for Episode 4, which are owned by a third-party studio [ed: 20th Century Fox]. All of the films are distributed by a third-party studio in the theatrical and home video markets. The theatrical and home video distribution rights for these films revert back to Lucasfilm in May 2020 with the exception of Episode 4, for which these distribution rights are retained in perpetuity by the third-party studio.

Which suggests that the short-term value of updating the original films was limited, which is supported by Disney's statement in the annual report that they planned to focus on original content:

Our success in building a robust pipeline of original Star Wars content for various platforms will be an integral part of our long-term strategy to leverage the franchise across a variety of our businesses, from theme parks to consumer products.

One can surmise, for example, that creating a 3D version of Attack of the Clones for which you have to share the revenue doesn't help you sell new toys when you already have a 2D version. In contrast, making a new movie or TV show gives you something you own 100% of the rights to as well a whole new variety of spinoff toys and theme park content, as we have seen.

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  • Given all 3 of the new movies had 3D releases it is possible that Disney will go back and continue this process. However it would very much depend on 1) Episode 1 3D made 100 million in cinema's I imagine the process of 3D'ifying is less then this but is the value worth the effort? 2) Would the process add enough to the franchise to warrant the claims that Disney are just cashing in (George Lucas could at least claim he was making the movies how he always intended them to be and it isn't about the money). – Richard C Feb 13 at 9:24
  • So did they ever finish the remaining films and release them on bluray or anything? Or did everything just die with that announcement? – TheIronCheek Feb 13 at 14:48
  • It all died with that announcment – Richard C Feb 13 at 14:52
  • @RichardC I found some related material about Disney's strategy in an annual report and beefed up the answer somewhat. Once they get the distribution rights back to episodes II, III, V and VI you could see them doing something more, but if Fox still retains all the rights to Episode IV I think they'd have to negotiate a new deal. – jeffronicus Feb 13 at 22:03
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    Disney now own Fox they bought it last year was a huge deal but it got them back the rights to Starwars original trilogy, as well as a number of Marvel franchises (fantastic 4, x men etc) – Richard C Feb 13 at 22:37
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Other answers like the one from @jeffronicus do a good job explaining that the project was killed with Disney's acquisition of the franchise.

But even though Episode I was the only film re-released in theaters, it wasn't the only film converted to 3D. Episode II and III were finished before the project died and were both screened at Star Wars Celebration events, Episode II at Celebration Europe in 2013 and Episode III at Celebration Anaheim in 2015.

Pulled from an archived copy of Celebration Anaheim's website:

RealD is working with Lucasfilm and Star Wars Celebration to bring the premiere of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith in 3D to the fans in style!

Fans attending the screening will receive a pair of collectible RealD glasses created especially for Star Wars Celebration, that they can take with them after the show as a souvenir.

The glasses, which are branded with the Celebration Anaheim logo, will also be available for the 3D screenings of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Attack of the Clones was screened at Celebration Europe in 2013, but has been shown only very exclusively since.

The Star Wars movies are scheduled in the evenings as follows, on the Digital Stage (Ballroom 300) at Star Wars Celebration:

  • Thursday, April 16th: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (3D) and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (3D).
  • Friday, April 17th: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (World premiere in 3d) and Star Wars: A New Hope (2D).
  • Saturday, April 18th: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (2D) and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (2D).
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TL;DR: You are correct, the other 5 films were never re-released because they wanted to focus on the upcoming Episode 7

Originally all 6 films were to be released in 3D as reported by hollywoodreporter in 2010. The Phantom Menace was released in 3D as you mentioned, and I can confirm this personally as well; I saw it in theaters.

After this was released there were still plans to do the same to the other films, but these were canceled. It was reported by independent in 2013 that the plans to do the same to episodes 2 and 3 had been canceled, in order to focus on the then in production episode 7, which was incorrectly reported to be another prequel (I am unaware if at that time that was Disney's plan or not, but obviously it's not what happened). While the article didn't mention the plans for the original trilogy, it is safe to assume that they were canceled for similar reasons since they were never released at all either.

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  • I always also assumed that Disney just where not interested in continuing the process it always felt like a George Lucas passion project the continuation of using modern technology to turn the films into the experiance he always saw them being in his own head. – Richard C Feb 13 at 9:27
  • @RichardC I don't know. Heck, I didn't even do any real research I just copied the sources from Wikipedia and described them in my own words. I'm fairly certain that's not plagiarism...heh heh... – DJ Spicy Deluxe Feb 13 at 16:59

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