Friday, October 20, 2006

Pretty Big Star Wars stuff

HD 'Star Wars' Will Cycle to HBO
Original Aspect Ratios Will Be Preserved
This week Cinemax officially announced what "Star Wars" fans have known for months: That all six films will debut in HD for the first time in November. Editor's Note: woohoooooooo!!!! HD is SO bEE-u-timous!!!

The HBO-owned premium network will marathon all six starting at midnight Nov. 10, with Comcast offering the films on HD video-on-demand.

Two lingering questions have worried fans since they learned the news. Will the HD versions cycle to sister network HBO? And will the films be presented in their original aspect ratios?

The answers are yes and yes, an HBO spokesman confirmed.

The HBO question is key for many, since Cinemax HD seemingly has lower distribution than its HBO counterpart. HBO would not release distribution figures, but neither EchoStar nor DirecTV carry Cinemax HD, while both carry HBO HD.

There were reasons for fans to suspect the films might not make it to HBO. From the beginning, the "Star Wars" acquisition was conceived as a promotional opportunity for Cinemax, particularly for its HD simulcast. The original trilogy and 1999's "The Phantom Menace," the first of the three prequels, were not part of Fox's regular HBO output deal, so the usual windowing on both networks was not a given.

HBO also just televised "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith" last summer in HD, and the films typically would not return for a while.

Recognizing the value of the acquisition to HD fans, HBO plans to run the entire sextet early next year. Likewise, both services will offer the films in their original aspect ratios, a key issue for HD purists.

Cinemax will also make the films available on-demand from Nov. 2 to Dec. 28, along with 14 short-form "Star Wars" making-of specials. The on-demand content will be in standard definition for most operators, but Comcast will offer the content in HD.

After the initial Nov. 10 marathon, Editor's Note: Oh to not be in rehersal that can catch the two trilogies on Cinemax on separate nights: The prequel trilogy on Nov. 16 and the original trilogy on Nov. 17.


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