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Recently, it was reported Disney was in talks to acquire the entertainment division of 21st Century Fox, and while talks about such a deal have now died off, it’s worth wondering what that merger would mean for the Star Wars franchise. Prior to the Mouse House’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, the original six episodes of the Skywalker saga were distributed by 20th Century Fox, the only studio willing to give George Lucas an honest shot at realizing his vision back in the 1970s. There’s no denying it was a fruitful partnership, as Star Wars redefined the film industry in more ways than one and spawned perhaps the most beloved franchise in pop culture.
The galaxy far, far away now calls Disney home, but the property is in an interesting place due to its history with Fox. In the wake of these discussions becoming public, there was much talk over what impact it could have on Marvel movies , as Fox continues to own the rights to X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and related characters. However, this would also have some interesting ramifications for Star Wars should it ever come to pass – potentially giving longtime fans the one thing they’ve always wanted.
Even though Disney is now the owner of Lucasfilm (and, by extension, Star Wars and Indiana Jones), they do not yet posses the rights to all of the films that have been released – and they never will. Under the terms of the agreement after Lucas sold, Disney will acquire the rights to The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi , and the complete prequel trilogy in May 2020. You will notice the movie that started it all, A New Hope , is not included on this list, and that’s because Fox owns it in perpetuity. Whereas Lucas independently produced and financed his final five Star Wars installments, he was partners on the 1977 smash with Fox, so they’ll always be able to stake claim to it.
Bringing the likes of Wolverine and Marvel’s First Family to the MCU is undoubtedly a motivating factor in Disney’s interest in acquiring Fox, but surely the New Hope rights are a key factor as well. Because of this issue, it would be a little complicated to put together a new box set of the original trilogy or the complete saga once 2020 rolls around. With Episode IX set to hit theaters in December 2019 (meaning, it will be available on home media the following spring), the studio would most likely want to release some kind of special collection to commemorate the full (at least for now) story. Obviously, you can’t have A New Hope missing, so something has to be done soon. Some might have thought Disney and Fox would strike a deal similar to the one Marvel and Sony made for Spider-Man, but apparently Bob Iger thought it’d be easier to just purchase Fox. Time will tell if the sides will resume their talks.
Even if Disney never does acquire Fox (which would probably be for the best), the studios will likely figure out the New Hope dilemma at some point because there’s money to be made, and companies like money. A massive, nine-film box set loaded with bonus material would sell like hotcakes and be perfect for the die-hard fan, so the onus is on the parties to get an arrangement in place. Fortunately, they have some time before this becomes a major issue, though the pressure is slowly beginning to mount. The fact Disney was even considering buying Fox illustrates those involved are aware of the problem the rights matter presents and are trying to pursue a suitable solution. Since Mickey Mouse isn’t expanding his empire anytime soon, everyone has to go back to the drawing board.
Of course, whenever the original trilogy is the topic of conversation, the prospect of finally seeing the unaltered versions of those seminal films is bound to pop up. In the five years since the Disney acquisition, this has been the biggest, non-movie rumor to pop up, with multiple reports popping up (including a claim from John Landis that such a set was in the works). Of course, none of these ever amounted into anything, so now people are pinning their hopes on this possible Fox/Disney merger. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t likely help matters.