Converted 'Phantom Menace' to hit theaters in 2012

After more than five years of teasing, Lucasfilm disclosed today that work is under way on converting the “Star Wars” saga to 3D.

All six pics will get theatrical re-release in stereoscopic starting with “Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” which returns to theaters in 2012.

Exact release date has not been announced, but a Lucasfilm spokesperson said the pic will open wide and “as close to day and date (worldwide) as possible.”

The prospect of six “Star Wars” pics released in 3D should stifle speculation that the format is a fading fad. It also promises to reintroduce the franchise to young auds who are used to 3D and only know ‘Star Wars’ from homevideo and the “Clone Wars” Cartoon Network skein.

20th Century Fox will once again distribute. Fox domestic distribution prexy Bruce Snyder called the series “perfectly suited” for 3D and said “I expect this to be as much fun for people that have not experienced ‘Star Wars’ as it was for people who were there in 1977 staring at the screen with mouth agape.”

Spacing of the re-releases has not yet been determined, as that will depend on the pace of the conversion effort.

There are no plans yet for a homevideo release.

John Knoll, visual effects supervisor for Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic, is overseeing the conversion, which is being done by outside vendors with close oversight by ILM.

Knoll said Lucasfilm is committed to ensuring that the 3D conversion delivers results as good as a movie shot and authored in 3D. Knoll said that it’ll be used to make the experience more immersive and he’ll avoid some of the more jarring, exaggerated uses of 3D that have marked previous stereoscopic pics.

“Having seen a lot of stereo material, I have very strong opinions about what I like and don’t like about stereo,” Knoll told Variety. “I’m going to be applying my aesthetic. It’s not going to look like (conversions) we’ve seen in the past.”

Knoll said there are no plans to add or fix visual effects on the movies. Over the years, Lucas’s digital tweaks on the original trilogy pics have generated pushback from fans.

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