Although fans have been imagining for weeks what the just-announced deal between Disney and 21st Century Fox might mean to the future of X-Men and Fantastic Four features, one film has been largely forgotten in the excitement: Star Wars: A New Hope.
Twentieth Century Fox co-financed and co-produced the 1977 film that launched the blockbuster saga, and continues to retain the distribution rights, even after Disney's 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm. While ownership of theatrical, nontheatrical and home video rights to the subsequent films -- that is, the first two Star Wars trilogies -- was previously set to transfer to Disney in 2020, Fox maintains a grip on Episode IV, and a portion of revenues from its sales and distribution, in perpetuity. That's long been viewed as an obstacle to any future releases of "ultimate" Star Wars box sets, collecting the entire saga to date.
However, with the announcement this morning that Disney has agreed to acquire many of 21st Century Fox's key assets, including its film production studios, the entertainment giant will be able to add Star Wars: A New Hope fully into its portfolio.
The film's distribution rights weren't mentioned by Disney Chairman & CEO Bob Iger during his early-morning conference call with investors, but an icon representing Episode IV appeared in one of the presentation's slides, alongside those for Avatar, Deadpool, Fantastic Four and X-Men.
Fans shouldn't make plans for a marathon theatrical re-release of every Star Wars film ever just yet, though, as the Disney/Fox deal requires not only the approval of shareholders but also U.S. government regulators. And the latter could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months, according to the call with investors.
However, by the time J.J. Abrams' Episode IX arrives in theaters in December 2019, a shimmering new box set with every franchise film, from A New Hope to Solo: A Star Wars Story, could be waiting under Christmas trees worldwide.
Until then, there's always Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Benicio Del Toro as ‘DJ’, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. The film opens nationwide on Friday.