Since the Videocassette Revolution of the mid-1980s, movie studios have made billions of dollars from home video releases of theatrical and direct-to-video films. In many cases, such as Rob Reiner's "The Princess Bride," a not-so-big theatrical hit becomes a cult classic through the back door of home video sales and rentals. Starting with videotape and moving on to today's dominant digital formats of DVD and Blu-rays, Hollywood (and other venues of the film industry, including adult films) continue to milk the home video cash cow in several methods.
A common practice in the home video industry is the tactic of "re-issues" of DVDs and Blu-ray releases, especially of movies that make up franchises. Usually (but not always), a studio such as Paramount Pictures will issue a "bare bones" edition six or seven months after a film's theatrical release, then re-issue a ritzier "Special Edition" set of DVDs or Blu-rays, jamming it with scads of extra features. Paramount has done this quite a few times with its "Star Trek" and Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan movie franchises, not to mention the "Indiana Jones" franchise created by "Star Wars" producer George Lucas and director Steven Spielberg.
Indeed, the "Star Wars" franchise, which is now owned by the Walt Disney Corporation after its $4 billion-plus purchase of Lucasfilm Limited, is a good example of home video reissues.
For instance, the beloved Classic "Star Wars" Trilogy has been released multiple times on videocassette, DVD, and Blu-ray formats. The VHS versions of the 1977-1983 movies were released individually in 1983, 1984, and 1985, then in several box sets (1992, 1996, 1997, and 2000). The Classic Trilogy has also had three DVD editions (2004, 2006, and 2008), as well as two Blu-ray editions (2011 "Star Wars" Trilogy set and a 2013 Blu-ray/DVD reissue)
Perhaps due to its less-popular standings in the world of "Star Wars" fans, the Prequel Trilogy has only had two DVD-only editions - the 2001, 2002, and 2005 two-disc sets of "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith.' These single-movie sets were followed in 2008 by the Prequel Trilogy box set. The prequels have also had two Blu-ray editions - the 2011 three-BD box set and a 2013 BD/DVD combo pack.
Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy (2008)
On November 4, 2008, roughly seven years after Lucasfilm Limited and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the two-disc DVD set of "Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace" and slightly four years after the unveiling of the somewhat controversial Star Wars Trilogy box set, the two companies went ahead and issued the first box set of Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy in tandem with a redesigned Star Wars Trilogy box set comprised of the 2006 Limited Edition DVDs which contain – due to high demand from fans – both the enhanced Special Edition and original theatrical release versions of "A New Hope," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi."
For some reason, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment waited a bit over three years to produce a box set of the Prequels which had previously been released in separate 2-DVD sets.
What Was New?
As is often the case with DVD reissues, the big difference between the 2008 Star Wars Prequel Trilogy box set and the original "individual two-disc" 2001-2005 DVD releases was in the packaging.
In addition to being bundled together in a Sith-themed slipcover dominated by a Drew Struzan illustration of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber duel and featuring dark side-related red, orange and black colors, Episodes I, II and III were packaged in the same space-saving slimcases used in many multi-disc sets a la 24: Seasons 5 and 6.
These slimcases I prefer because they don't have any parts that wear out or can break, and they also take up a bit less shelf space than the traditional DVD cases.
The "Star Wars" Prequel Trilogy box sets were, until the Blu-ray editions were released in 2011, a bit more affordable. Now they are, as they say in the distribution industry, out of print and only available on eBay and third-party sellers such as those in Amazon Marketplace. However, in 2008, they were a good bargain
Consider: I purchased the original DVD editions of "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith" at Amazon for what was then a reasonable $22.00 each. (That's $66.00, plus shipping and handling). In 2009, Amazon offered the entire trilogy at $38.99. which was 22% less than 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's MSRP of $49.99
What Was Old?
If you own the 2001, 2002 and 2005 two-disc editions (Disc 1 with the feature film, Disc 2 with the extra features) and hope to find anything new added to the 2008 re-issues, forget it. With the exception of the slipcover and slimmer DVD two-disc cases, you're going to get exactly the same content. The feature films and extra features have no revised materials.
The 2-disc sets even have the same "blurbs" on the back panels of the slim DVD cases as the original 2001-2005 "first editions" with minor edits to reflect the changing times (Episode I no longer boasts its For the first time on DVD status here).
For casual "Star Wars" fans who (a) don't yet have a Blu-ray player and (b) don't think the Prequel Trilogy is a pile of bantha poodoo, this set might be a welcome addition to their "Star Wars" DVD collection. The compact size of the packaging means the set doesn't task as much shelf space as older DVD box sets. Also, the Drew Struzan poster art is really way cool.
The only problem is, of course, the price. Some sellers on eBay offer sets (either in pan-and-scan or widescreen format) for as little as $25.28 or its equivalent in foreign currency. However, most of the prices I have seen on eBay can climb up to the $159.99-and-up price range.
For that kind of money, you're much better off buying a Blu-ray player and either a 9-BD set of "Star Wars: The Complete Saga" or the Prequel Trilogy Blu-ray sets.