Update: Info has been released on when exactly we'll see the first episode of the Saga released in 2012. See below for details.
Talk about inevitable...
After much speculation pointing to this conclusion, we're finally hearing official word that the entire Star Wars Saga from Phantom Menace right through to Return of the Jedi is getting the 3D treatment. Heat Vision reports that George Lucas is officially planning the re-release of all six Star Wars movies in 3D starting with Phantom Menace in 2012. That obviously means Lucas is going the route of releasing them in chronological order as opposed to the order in which they were originally released. If Phantom Menace's 3D release does well at the box office (I'd be shocked if it didn't) the plan is to release each movie after Phantom Menace on the exact same date every year to keep things consistent. But the math whizzes among you will have worked out that means we won't get to "the original trilogy" until 2015 with Return of the Jedi concluding things in 2017. I'm betting a lot of you wish they would re-release the movies in their original order, huh? The prequel trilogy isn't exactly cherished... Unsurprisingly, Lucas has been spurred on by James Cameron's Avatar and specifically the way that movie utilized 3D. Obviously the Star Wars movies will have to be converted to 3D, but fans can take some comfort in the fact that, "each conversion takes at least a year to complete, with Lucas personally overseeing the process to make sure each one is as perfected as possible." This certainly doesn't sound like it'll be the rushed post-conversion 3D job that Clash of the Titans was.
If you're wondering why it's taken Lucas this long to get moving with Star Wars in 3D, he purportedly was waiting for there to be enough 3D screens for it to be as big an event as possible. Obviously Lucas wants the re-releases to launch with a bang, not a whimper...
Also being talked about is how the six movies can make their way to the home market in 3D. With state-of-the-art 3D televisions now on their way to becoming widely available (although still very expensive) we could see the Star Wars Saga being released in 3D on DVD/Blu-ray by the time the theatrical re-releases are over with.
The question now is whether or not Star Wars will benefit greatly from 3D. Well, they're certainly the types of movies that are prime for that extra dimension and part of me would love to see some of those classic sequences in 3D. However, with it being a 3D conversion job I am very wary about the quality of the conversion. Lucas saying he'll oversee the process is reassuring but it's not exactly a guarantee it'll turn out well, now is it?
Update: The Hollywood Reporter is now reporting that we can expect to see the first of the Star Wars 3D re-releases, The Phantom Menace, hit theaters in February of 2012. There's no exact day in February officially set but sources are saying itll be around Valentines Day. It's speculated that it could be either Wednesday February 15th or Friday February 17th. The only competition around those dates would be Ghost Rider 2, which is released on February 17th, 2012 (also in 3D).
Lucas and Co. are aiming for early 2012 because it would allow the movie to have "an open run at the box office" (read: more time in that year to make even more money) and also for them to release subsequent merchandise throughout the rest of the year.
Depending on how The Phantom Menace 3D performs, the rest of the Saga would likely be released on similar days in each consecutive year. However, it's also noted that if it doesn't perform (at least well as hoped/expected) the release dates for each of the rest of the films could be changed for the subsequent years (a summer release for each would maybe make more sense, no?).
As stated, Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace will likely be re-released in 3D in February 2012, with the rest of the Saga following in each consecutive year. Source: The Hollywood Reporter (Header image source: Zoltan Simon)