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Fanboys’ surprising reactions to ‘Star Wars’ 3D

Outcry visceral and widespread; will they boycott rerelease?

Like a lightsaber to the midsection, reactions to news that George Lucas is planning to rerelease 3D versions of the “Star Wars” sextet have been swift and, more often than not, deadly.

But when the Force actually is with them, will fans be able to stay away?

For every “I’ll be first in line,” there are another 20-30 Web comments along the lines of “SW is just a machine now,” “I’ll stay away in droves,” “Lucas is beating a dead horse” or “Never have I seen something so amazing be systematically destroyed.” The outcry has been visceral and widespread.

Waves of complaints and other cris de coeur in the past 24 hours have attacked everything from Lucas’ perceived greed to the fear that he’ll further “ruin” the hallowed original trilogy, from his choice of “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” to start the 3D series as lunatic to the bandwagon glut of 3D films as already too much of a bad thing to, of course, the declaration that anything that brings Jar Jar Binks or the Ewoks back to life should be considered a crime against humanity.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news Tuesday that Lucas and Fox plan to rerelease the “Star Wars” franchise in state-of-the-art 3D conversions beginning in 2012. The rolling theatrical releases inevitably would set up 3D DVD versions that would facilitate the ultimate home-viewing experience once 3D-capable televisions have become fixtures in four to six years.

A specific date for the first release has not been announced, but sources said Fox and Lucasfilm are looking at a mid-February launch in 2012. Lucas hopes that releasing the film early in the year, outside of summer blockbuster season, will give it an open run at the box office and set up the opportunity to sell merchandise through the balance of the year. The plan under discussion would make the release of the subsequent films in the series an annual event on the film calendar.

On paper, the news should be every fanboy’s dream. The groundbreaking nature and scope of Lucas’s original trilogy, launched in 1977, have practically begged for a 3D treatment to match its ambitions. But for many of the die-hards, that starship has long since sailed.

A lot has happened in the three decades between the theatrical release of “Return of the Jedi” in 1983 and what will be the first of the new 3D versions. For one thing, Lucas made three other movies in the saga, which were almost universally panned. He also has already done several rereleases and recuts of the original trilogy that updated the effects and added new or deleted footage in ways that many found sacrilegious (see: the widespread “Han Shot First” campaign, or Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary “The People vs. George Lucas,” which had its world premiere at SXSW this year).

For those with a negative view of the post-1983 “Star Wars” output, the idea of yet another iteration — especially using a conversion process many have found lacking in recent releases such as “Clash of the Titans” and “The Last Airbender” — is cause for great despair.

“People are just too down on conversions,” said Jeremy Smith, West Coast editor of Ain’t It Cool News. “It doesn’t even matter what the film is — with the exception of animation. The conversations have gone from ‘Fuck conversion’ to ‘George Lucas is a money-grubbing whatever.’ ”

There has been some enthusiasm for the new development. A lot of parents, who grew up during the original fever, are excited for their kids (and grandkids) to see the original films in the theater. And some just can’t get enough “Star Wars,” no matter what the reservations.

For those on the fence, their loyalty remains partially intact but devoted only to the original trilogy. (NotMalcolmRee’sd comment on Ain’t It Cool News is typical: “i will not sit thru the prequels again even in 10 dimensions.”)

Many wish Lucas would do something new rather than keep futzing with the existing movies — even make a seventh film in the series or a whole new trilogy with new characters, in 3D or otherwise. But in the absence of that, just how many fans would be willing to bypass the chance to see what Lucas would do with 3D?

“My gut feeling is that it will do well, on the level of what the ’97 releases did,” Smith said. “They’ll get the die-hards out, they’ll get people taking their kids. These kids are as into ‘Star Wars’ as their parents. And kids don’t have the hatred toward ‘Star Wars’ as people in my generation.”

The 1997 “special edition” rereleases of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi” grossed $138 million, $68 million and $45 million, respectively. Notable is the decline in interest as the trilogy progresses (most loyalists place the first two as the only genuine classics), with the second trilogy — the prequels — drawing limitless derision despite having grossed more during release.

Returns on a 3D rerelease of “Phantom Menace,” the first scheduled, are likely to be significantly less than a 3D rerelease of “Star Wars” or “Empire” and thus a questionable test case for future conversions.

By Jay A. Fernandez and Borys Kit

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Data & Analytics Project

The Storytelling Cipher: Mapping Precise Story and Character Mechanics to Box Office Returns

Our Data & Analytics Project held “The Storytelling Cipher: Mapping Stories & Characters to Box Office Revenue” Tuesday, December 6, 2016 at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

This study leverages the Dramatic taxonomy of film narrative to infer which scene-level character and story attributes generate more box office returns, by genre. We are extending this study to ads and movie trailers.

The project researchers used machine learning to map 70+ story attributes for 300 films to their box office returns to extract which story mechanics or character features in film generated the most revenue. This was the first time granular story and character mechanics have been used to predict box office returns, which opens up many avenues to make more data-driven creative and development decisions throughout the industry.

What’s a good story? The question has been hanging without a scientific answer since the dawn of man. It seems that a story’s lack of clear mathematical structure and universal taxonomy would relegate such classification of stories to the qualitative – and highly subjective- empire of critics and … people.

Until now.

The event presented results from the research, discussed applications for the development and creative process, and outlined next steps.

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