So you plunked down a couple of grand on a new 4K TV, you’ve got the surround sound set up, and now you’re ready to dive into the world of Ultra High Definition with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. It’s the highest grossing moving in the US and it’s full of special effects—should look great in 4K.
There’s just one problem—it’s not on 4K Blu-ray.
Neither is the original trilogy or the prequel films.
And nope, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story won’t be available in 4K when it hits home video on April 4.
For a high-profile movie with cutting-edge effects and a massive budget, this is pretty surprising, right? Well, not really.
We’ve Seen This Before
It’s now been just a little over a year since 4K Blu-rays hit the market. The first batch of Ultra HD discs included blockbuster FX-filled films like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and – ahem – Chappie, and it’s now commonplace to see new releases feature a UHD version alongside traditional Blu-ray and DVD copies. But as Star Wars fans know, there’s a precedent for these films taking their sweet time to arrive on a new format.
You’ll recall the painstaking wait for the movies to come to high def. The Blu-rays were released as a complete set in September 2011, some 3.5 years after the Blu-ray/HD-DVD war was decided. This time, there’s no physical media competitor for 4K discs, so that excuse is out. In fact, one would think the emerging dominance of streaming video would light a fire under Lucasfilm and Disney to get physical versions of the Star Wars films into production as quickly as possible, but it’s clear the rules are different for these properties.
A New(ish) Hope for 4K
It’s certainly not a matter of if, but when these films will see a 4K Blu-ray release. In December, Little White Lies spoke with Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, who confirmed that the original film has been in 4K for a couple of years now:
“On day one, we were in Lucasfilm in San Francisco with Industrial Light and Magic and John Knoll, our supervisor, said that they had a brand new 4K restoration print of A New Hope – it had literally just been finished. He suggested we sit and watch it. Obviously, I was up for that.”
As are we, Gareth.
Now that the immediate 4K release window has passed for The Force Awakens, I’d put my money on the original films getting 4K releases before the recent ones. And if that indeed is the plan, it then gets complicated.
20th Century Fox, not Disney, still holds the media distribution rights to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, and Fox will always hold those rights. For the five movies after the original (The Empire Strikes back through Revenge of the Sith), Fox holds theatrical, nontheatrical, and home video rights worldwide through May 2020. That means for any comprehensive 4K home video release to happen, Disney and 20th Century Fox will have to hammer out a deal. Surely that can happen, but it explains why there might be plenty of radio silence on the matter for a while.
That 2020 date is interesting, though, because that’s when the current trilogy (episodes VII through IX) will have all been released in theaters (Episode 9 is tentatively slated for May 2019). Fox’s home video rights to five of the first six movies will be expiring, and the path to a massive boxed set in 4K will be much easier.
Question is, will we be talking about 8K then?
If only I were kidding.