No, it probably doesn’t mean that. In fact, I suspect it’s unlikely that this is going to change Disney and Lucasfilm’s theatrical and home video plans for Star Wars in the slightest. It does mean, of course, that they now own Star Wars in toto in all its forms, including all of the assets, the OCN, the distribution rights, etc. It probably means that – when Episode IX is finished – there will probably be some kind of grand 9-films+ Saga/Stories box set on Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K. But that’s a long way off yet.
So let’s get back to more immediate Star Wars concerns: It now seems all but certain – though it is still not yet official – that Disney and Lucasfilm will release Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 4K Ultra HD early next year, day and date with the Blu-ray and DVD versions. And there will be a Blu-ray 3D version too. More international retailers have just listed all of these SKUs for pre-order, including Amazon.co.uk and Zavvi in the UK in addition to CDON.se and DiscShop.se in Sweden. As yet, however, there are no US retailers to have done so. We strongly suspect that the Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD will be released widely here in the States and the Blu-ray 3D could be a retail exclusive. But all that remains to be seen.
Now, a number of you have asked: Why did you report this news as “breaking rumor”? Isn’t it actually happening if the retailers are already taking pre-orders? Isn’t it a foregone conclusion that Disney would release this title on 4K Ultra HD since they’re releasing all of their other new theatrical titles in the format? Let’s take the first question first: We reported it as “breaking rumor” because until the studio actually announces the title with their own press release, it’s not official and the release plans can change. That’s just how this works. You may remember that, years ago, we used to post lots of information here at The Bits in a section we called The Rumor Mill (we still have the section here at the site, but hardly use it anymore). We had a really great track record of accuracy – probably on the order of 80% – because all of that information came straight from studio, industry, and retailer sources. But sometimes, the studios would change their minds. Thus, we’d qualify it as a rumor and remind people not to count on it until the studios made their official announcements. The next question: Isn’t it actually happening if the retailers are already taking pre-orders? The answer is: Almost certainly, but there have been exceptions where titles were put up for pre-order and then taken down never to return. Isn’t it a foregone conclusion that Disney would release this title on 4K Ultra HD since they’re releasing all of their other new theatrical titles in the format? No. Some of you may be too young to recall, but in 2000, 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm released Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace on VHS and Laserdisc, but not DVD... even though Fox had already started releasing films on DVD back in 1997. It was another year before that happened, and only after The Bits and several other websites combined forces in a joint Star Wars on DVD Campaign to convince them. Yes, Disney recently suggested that their theatrical releases going forward would come to 4K Ultra HD, but when I asked them about Star Wars directly they said they hadn’t made that decisions yet. So there was the possibility that Disney and Lucasfilm might decide to wait until the 4K Ultra HD market was a little bigger.
The good news is that the 4K Ultra HD format has taken off faster than almost anyone expected and you’re going to hear the Digital Entertainment Group and the Ultra HD Association crowing about that in a few weeks at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.
So yes, it’s almost certain that Disney and Lucasfilm will be releasing Star Wars: The Last Jedi on 4K Ultra HD early next year. But it’s still not official yet until they say so. If I had to guess, I would imagine CES would be a smart place to announce it.
As to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story coming to 4K Ultra HD, I would expect those to be strong possibilities for release later in 2018. Like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, those films were finished as full native 4K digital intermediates. So doing so would be very straightforward. As far as any versions of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, or Return of the Jedi coming to 4K Ultra HD, we know that the studio has recent 4K masters of those films, but I would expect it to be a few years yet before we see any movement on that front. So like I said earlier: Cool your thrusters, Space Cowboys.
All right, some other release news today...
Shout! Factory has confirmed that its Shout Select-line Matinee: Collector’s Edition will street on Blu-ray on 1/16, with the following new extras (Master of the Matinee – an interview with director Joe Dante, The Leading Lady – an interview with Cathy Moriarty, MANTastic! The Making of a Mant, Out of the Bunker – An interview with actress Lisa Jakub, Making a Monster Theatre – an interview with production designer Steven Legler, The Monster Mix – an interview with editor Marshall Harvey, and Lights! Camera! Reunion! – an interview with director of photography John Hora). You’ll also get Paranoia in Ant Vision – Joe Dante discusses the making of the film, MANT! – the full length version of the film with introduction by Joe Dante, a vintage making-of Matinee featurette, behind-the-scenes footage courtesy of Joe Dante, deleted and extended scenes sourced from Joe Dante’s workprint, still galleries, and the theatrical trailer.
Also, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is apparently releasing a live-action Woody Woodpecker film (featuring the character rendered in CGI) on DVD and Digital on 2/6. No Blu-ray is currently planned. What that says about the film I would not dare to imagine.
The Ambi Media Group and Samuel Goldwyn Films will release In Search of Fellini on DVD on 1/23, with a Digital release expected on 12/19.
And Lionsgate Home Entertainment has set Cook Off! for release on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on 1/16.
Here’s a look at the temp art for the Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, and 4K Ultra HD versions of Star Wars: The Last Jedi now available for pre-order in the UK from Amazon.co.uk (click on each to pre-order these UK SKUs). We’ll let you know as soon as US pre-orders go live...
With that, my wife and I will soon be joining our old friend special edition producer/director Robert Meyer Burnett and his girlfriend for a lovely evening of dinner and a Dolby Cinema screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’m sure many of you are headed out to the theater to see tonight and this weekend yourselves. So my wish for all of you is this: Go forth and enjoy the hell out of this film!
See you back here tomorrow. Stay tuned...
- Bill Hunt