The decision comes just weeks after it was revealed a 4K edition of the film would form part of U.K. cinemas’ reopening slate. While “The Empire Strikes Back” will still be screened in U.K. cinemas, it will be a standard 2K version of the 1980 film.
Variety understands the Mouse House scrapped plans for a 4K release — which would have marked the first time a UHD version of an original trilogy film had been screened in cinemas — after talks broke down with exhibitors in the last few weeks.
European cinema giant Vue was initially on board to show the 4K film across its U.K. cinemas, but said earlier this week that plans had changed, and the film would only be screened in 2K.
The 4K edition of the 1980 film — the second title in the original trilogy, in which Luke Skywalker studies the Force with Yoda as the Galactic Empire pursues the Rebel Alliance — has only been made available so far on the studio’s streaming platform Disney Plus and via Blu-ray, where it was released in late March alongside 4K versions of the seven other Skywalker Saga films.
Disney’s about-face on a 4K “The Empire Strikes Back” release in cinemas is, in many ways, indicative of the moving parts facing studios and exhibitors as they look to rebound amid a global pandemic.
Just a week ago, Disney was forced to push “Mulan” from its July 24 release date to Aug. 21, off the back of Warner Bros. moving the hotly anticipated “Tenet” from July 31 to Aug. 12.
For its part, U.K. exhibitors Vue and Cineworld have also shifted their reopening dates from July 10 to July 31, in line with the major new releases. By moving closer to the “Tenet” release date, the chains will be less reliant on library fare.