Earlier today, news broke that 21st Century Fox had meetings with The Walt Disney Company about the possibility of buying most of the company, with the exception of 21st Century Fox's news and sports assets. To some, these talks are merely frivolous industry negotiations, but to Star Wars fans, it could mean an official release of the original, unaltered cuts of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
Back in 1997, George Lucas revisited his three original films to overhaul their special effects using more sophisticated technology than what was available to him at the time. In addition to the aesthetic upgrade, he also made some narrative changes, including the incorporation of scenes deleted from the original cut. Another massive change to the Special Edition of his original film was that, in the scene between Han Solo and Greedo in the Mos Eisley Cantina, it was edited to show Greedo shooting first and Han retaliating.
When the Special Edition trilogy was released on DVD, some limited sets included a bonus disc of the unaltered original films, which were taken from a laserdisc transfer of the films. The quality was severely disappointing when compared to the Special Edition films, but this was the last time the unaltered trilogy was made available on home video.
A high-definition set of all six films was released on Blu-ray in 2011, with there being no option to obtain the original films in definition better than a laserdisc transfer.
All possibility of an official re-release of the unaltered films was seemingly destroyed when Disney purchased Lucasfilm and the announcement of new films being made, thus cutting Fox out of the equation. While there have been theatrical screenings of the original trilogy to prepare fans for new installments in the saga, each of these screenings is the Special Edition versions of those films, as Disney would have to pay Fox for the rights to screen the unaltered original films.
Whether these talks between 21st Century Fox and Disney could lead to a theatrical re-release or a home video high-definition release, it's too early to tell. Unfortunately, reports claim that the talks are no longer taking place, but could resume at some point in the near future.
Even if Disney were to acquire 21st Century Fox, Lucas has regularly said that the Special Editions are more accurate to his initial vision for the saga than the theatrical releases, so even still, those original releases might never see the light of day in an official capacity.
Stay tuned for any and all updates about the potential acquisition.