The most jarring thing about the new Star Wars films, starting with The Force Awakens is the fact that they don’t begin with the iconic 20th Century Fox fanfare, music so closely linked with the Star Wars franchise that it even appears on the soundtrack records for the original films and the prequels. For those in the know, the reason is obvious: Fox wasn’t the distributor of the Star Wars films after Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012. But if Disney and Fox merged, Star Wars movies would probably get that fanfare back, and a whole lot more.
On Monday, news broke that Disney was eyeing to purchase the majority of Fox. And while later reports indicated “The two sides are not currently talking at this very moment,” experts did acknowledge that “they could be revisited.” And the internet is still buzzing about the news, even if the merger is currently frozen in carbonite. On Tuesday, The Atlantic published a piece titled “The Chilling Implications of a Disney-Fox Merger,” while the Wall Street Journal posited that the merger was probably more about competition with Netflix than anything else. So what would a Disney and Fox team-up mean for Star Wars, specifcally?
The answer is simple: 20th Century Fox still owns distribution rights to the “original” film, Episode IV: A New Hope. This means, in 2015, if you bought the iTunes digital downloads of the movies, you’ll find that the 20th Century Fox fanfare happens before A New Hope, but not on any of the other movies. And that’s because Fox and Disney jointly released these digital versions of Episodes I thru VI. The original trilogy on these latest editions is pretty much the same as the 2011 Blu-ray versions, which means Han doesn’t shoot first in A New Hope, and there’s a silly CGI Jabba scene that most fans detest. In fact, since 1997, everyone has been hoping for a theatrical re-release of the original Star Wars with all the “special edition” stuff removed. Fans have even created their own “despecialized” editions for the past decade or so.
But, a theatrical re-release of the original film has seemed like a pipe dream that would never be realized. During the promotion of Rogue One Gareth Edwards mentioned he’d seen a new 4K restoration of the 1977 film but didn’t clarify if it was the special edition or not. Meanwhile, Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy went on record earlier this year saying she “wouldn’t touch” the George Lucas special editions, seemingly ever. But — and here’s where the speculation comes in — does all of that have something to do with the Fox distrubition rights?
If Fox still owns distribution rights on A New Hope, then it stands to reason that includes theatrical re-releases and deciding which version of the movie gets shown. If Fox and Lucasfilm were re-combined in a hypothetical Disney merger, then all of those decisions would presumably in the same place again. Which means if the newly combined Fox/Disney saw a market potential for giving fans the original version of Star Wars again, they might take it.
And if these two studios want to find the customers who would line up to see Star Wars on the big screen, just as it was shown in 1977, there’s one simple method they can use to determine if people would pay for such a thing. Take a toy lightsaber, flip it open and swing it around. Anyone you hit with it is someone who will pay to see the OLD Star Wars in the theater again. Disney merging with Fox might be a scary thing for the movie industry as a whole, but when you think about a despecialized original Star Wars and the 20th Century Fox music playing before Episode IX, it seems totally worth it.
The next new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, opens on December 15.
If you liked this article, check out this video of the two huge twists revealed in the Last Jedi trailer.