Maybe I’m cheap. Maybe I’m a bad consumer. Maybe I’m just not a big enough fan. Actually, all these things are true, and with less than three months left before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I’m attempting to cope with all my first-world problems regarding my level of anticipation and preparation for the sequel.
Really it’s just one problem: I’d like to revisit the six live-action movies ahead of the seventh, and I don’t want to spend a lot of money to do so. I don’t even want to own digital copies of these movies anyway. I just want to re-watch them once each, and I want my son to see them at least once, all for the first time, before taking him to see the latest installment.
But currently the only easy way for us to legally see Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, The Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith is to buy them from iTunes, Amazon or any other participating VOD retailer at $20 a piece or bundled for $100 (Amazon actually has it discounted for $90) or spend about the same amount on a box set of the physical DVD or Blu-ray discs.
Well, I won’t pay it!
Everyone expects The Force Awakens to be a gigantic hit. The hype has been huge, between the trailers and the Comic-Con and D23 presentations and the recent dumping of new toys into stores and books linking Jedi to the start of the new movie and all the other merchandise supporting the release. The Star Wars superfans are definitely excited and spending accordingly.
I’ve seen chatter in social media, though, that Disney is not focused enough on casual fans. That includes people like myself, a Star Wars enthusiast for about as long as the franchise has existed, enjoying the movies and much of the merch (mostly when I was a kid) without devotion to all supplementary content detailing the expanded universe, such as the novels and games.
I even casually collect digital cards through the Topps Star Wars Card Trader app, but I don’t put any money into it and don’t try that hard to amass complete sets, and I even forget its existence for days. I’m curious about the new comics and all the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” books, but I haven’t the time nor the money to bother with them.
I don’t buy toys, except for my kids. I don’t care that much about Star Wars attractions at Disneyland. I own one Star Wars t-shirt. I’ve seen the original trilogy numerous times in their various forms over the decades. I saw the prequels once each when they came out. I’m a normal guy.
The best way for Disney to reach out to the casual fan who isn’t a big spender – and I believe we are the people who will make up the majority of Force Awakens ticket buyers, along with newcomers who could also do with greater, less-committed access in order to be introduced to this franchise – is to work with 20th Century Fox (still the distributor of the original six) to make the movies, which are the heart of the whole brand, easier to see for little cost. That means simply offering a rental option to the digital versions.
At least 24 other casual fans are serious enough about this need that they recently posted and signed a petition on Change.org directed at Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, producer Bryan Burk and Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams asking to be able to rent the movies (starting before Thanksgiving to give them proper time). Not that those are necessarily the names to appeal to, but it doesn’t matter because the point is just to put this demand out there.
You’re probably thinking: why not just rent the DVDs or Blu-rays somewhere? Well, that might be easy in places that still have things called “video stores,” but not for most of us in the suburbs. I live across from an empty Blockbuster constantly taunting me with this fact.
And while Netflix does carry all six movies on disc, with Empire and Jedi even apparently available in their original theatrical versions, and I could in theory pay only $8 to check out all of them in one month and then cancel the DVD plan subscription, some of them have a longer-than-normal wait time, and there’s always the chance of them arriving damaged.
That may be the best bet, but a gamble it is, and this isn’t just me being spoiled about not having immediate movies at my fingertips. DVD by mail was always a step back compared to video stores in terms of timely convenience. Provided the video stores had your choice in stock, of course. And anyway what’s wrong with being spoiled by advanced technology? Once tech advances, it should be the norm.
Next: 15 Questions Left Unanswered By Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This isn’t really about just me and my desire to watch Star Wars five minutes from now in my living room, on my computer or phone or whatever with my family. It’s about there being no good reason for these movies not to be available to rent digitally ahead of The Force Awakens.
Perhaps Disney knows us casual fans are going to see the new movie regardless of whether we’re able to remind ourselves what’s happened beforehand (they apparently thought the same thing with Tron: Legacy when they didn’t make the original Tron easily available ahead of the sequel’s release). And perhaps Fox knows that if we really want it, we’ll pay for that $100.
I just figure there’s more to gain from more people who are anticipating The Force Awakens renting the movies, maybe multiple times, in the next 80 days and beyond. Especially when some casual fans might instead go with the illegal means of revisiting the two previous trilogies. That won’t be me. Maybe I’ll just hold out hope that Spike will broadcast the six movies sometime before December 18th and that I won’t miss them.