Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why Have the 3D Re-Releases Been Postponed?

 With all of the excitement and buzz as months of speculation have come to an end, Lucasfilm have taken the opportunity to bury some embarrassing news. The 3D re-release of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith that were due for late this year have been cancelled. What led to this decision, and is it a smart move?

The announcement is even shorter than Master Yoda’s height, so doesn’t reveal all that much. Except that they want us to just put this down to Episode VII being in pre-production.

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.

Episode VII being to blame can be discounted pretty quickly. The conversion work has to be already finished by now, especially as Attack of the Clones in 3D was originally due for a February release. To speculate on the actual reasons, it will need to go a bit further back to a few years ago.
Disney re-released many popular films in 3D since the format has become more popular. At its height, 3D was giving a huge boost to the likes of Avatar and Alice in Wonderland. The popularity of these new 3D films seemed to spread and give success to Disney re-releases of Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and The Lion King in 3D. The model of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 3D releases is significant. They were released within a month of one another, and seemed to get a boost from the shared publicity.

So when The Phantom Menace in 3D did dismal numbers last February, Lucasfilm made a

conscious decision to change strategy. Rather than releasing Attack of the Clones in 3D a year later as planned, both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith would be released in 3D on September 20th and October 4th 2013, respectively. Like Toy Story and Toy Story 2, they could share marketing costs and test out a different time of the year to see if worked better. Furthermore, the prequels still leave a bitter taste in the mouth of mainstream movie-goers, so getting both out of the way in 2013 would mean getting the classic trilogy – and hopefully bigger box office returns – more quickly.

The merchandise released to tie in with The Phantom Menace release was also a disaster,

with sales much lower than hoped for, meaning product got clogged up in stores and new product is still sat in warehouses never having seen a shop shelf. Presumably this time around the licensees had learned some hard lessons, but would have been grateful for the 3D releases coming around the Christmas gift buying period. Ironically they were caught unaware by The Revenge of the Sith 3D release, and almost all of the planned product from companies such as LEGO was designed to tie in with Attack of the Clones. The second last minute decision to change the packaging to reflect the final prequel, much maligned here, now looks even stupider as it doesn’t tie in to anything. Yoda could have stayed on the box where he was.

But overall, the silliest thing about this decision is that for the first time since 2008, arguably since 2005, there is currently a buzz around Star Wars. People are speculating and getting excited at the prospect of new films, and any Star Wars at the cinema would likely have benefited from that. If the films had continued to be released in 3D, they would have been leading in perfectly to Episode VII, in the same way that the Special Editions saw release a couple of year before The Phantom Menace. Not releasing these films seems really to be missing a trick.

The calculation that Lucasfilm have made, however, seems to be that 3D is no longer as

popular as it was a couple of years ago. Even Disney has shelved plans to re-release The Little Mermaid in 3D after disappointing box office returns on a 3D release of Finding Nemo. And if that ridiculously successful animated movie can’t make it in 3D, with all of the positive memories people hold of it, it is understandable that Lucasfilm didn’t feel too confident about spending money releasing and marketing the two unfairly criticised prequels. It shouldn't escape notice that if Disney is putting 3D re-releases on the back burner for a whiler, Lucasfilm is now part of that company. For those of us Star Wars fans who appreciate that Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith didn’t deserve the mauling they got at the time, however, it’s a shame they won’t be there to be enjoyed on the big screen again anytime soon.

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