Flynn lives, all right, but he’s awfully elusive. One of the toughest movies to get your hands on right now is “Tron.” Not “Tron: Legacy,” the breathlessly promoted movie due in theaters Dec. 17, but the original 1982 saga starring Jeff Bridges as hacker Kevin Flynn, which has gone out of print on DVD.
Director Steven Lisberger recently remastered the film, color correcting it and reframing certain shots for a planned Blu-ray edition. But Disney hasn’t yet set a release date for Lisberger’s new version, and as the studio’s marketing for ‘Tron: Legacy” has become ubiquitous, interest in the original is outstripping supply.
“They’re trying to figure out when the best time is to release it,” Lisberger says. “I don’t think there’s anything intentional going on to deprive ‘Tron’ fans of the new edition.”
The last time “Tron” hit stores was as a two-disc 20th anniversary collector’s edition released in 2002.
As fans — or would-be fans — seek out DVDs of the 1982 “Tron,” they have to be willing to open their wallets. In August, copies of “Tron” were still available on Ebay for under $20. Now used DVDs are being auctioned for more three times that amount. Netflix lists “Tron” as “availability unknown,” only two of Blockbuster’s 30 L.A.-area stores had copies in stock this week, iTunes doesn’t offer the title and even specialty stores that pride themselves on stocking obscure used DVDs are empty-handed. “We’ve been fielding several requests a week for ‘Tron,'” says Matthew Messbarger, a clerk in the movie department at Los Angeles’ Amoeba Music. “I just sort of assumed they would have a new version out by now.”
Studios rarely miss an opportunity to capitalize on interest in one of their catalog titles. In 2009, Lionsgate released a remaster of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” the same week Warner Bros. opened the franchise reboot “Terminator: Salvation” in theaters, and in 2004 20th Century Fox unveiled a “Star Wars” box set eight months before the release of “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.”
“Tron” was a much more modest success than those films, however, earning $33 million at the box office and becoming a cult favorite for its groundbreaking use of CG effects and prescient story about computer culture. Today, its effects might look quaint to sophisticated audiences.
Disney has declined to say when the studio will release a new edition of “Tron,” but it’s possible the company is deliberately holding back on printing new copies of a movie that could alienate the broad, non-geek audiences they’ll need to make “Tron: Legacy” a success. [Update: Disney now says Lisberger’s remastered version of “Tron” will be available sometime in 2011.]
“That film was ahead of its time,” says Jan Saxton, analyst at Adams Media Research. “But they want the focus to be on their new effort.”
— Rebecca Keegan
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