The Empire Strikes Back Original Theatrical Version Restored In 4K By Fans

By Nina Phillips | Published

empire strikes back

Sometimes, when fans want something bad enough from a movie, they’ll do it themselves. This is the case with The Empire Strikes Back. and the fan-made theatrical version that was restored to 4K using the original 35 mm prints of the sequel.

4K80

empire strikes back

The project is known as 4K80. As of February 2024, the first version of the project has been released, though there are expected to be more versions with other minimal changes in the future.

This isn’t the first restoration of a Star Wars movie. The same team has also completed projects known as 4K77 and 4K83. These are for the original Star Wars and Return of the Jedi respectively.

The names for the projects are based on the purpose, restoring the theatrical versions of the movie to 4K quality, and the year the movie came out.

4K77 is for the first Star Wars, which came out in 1977. Return of the Jedi was released in 1983, and The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980, hence 4K80.

Delayed By The Print

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The Empire Strikes Back is the second movie in the trilogy, but it took the longest to finish. This is why it is just now being put online for fans.

Apparently, Project 4K80 took so long because the original 35 mm prints weren’t in great condition. However, they managed to push through and complete the restoration.

There are other versions of the trilogy fans restored to 4K quality. However, these are the only ones created by the same team, and they include the original theatrical versions.

Why Isn’t This Coming From Disney?

empire strikes back

Many fans are surprised that it hasn’t been done already. There is a huge demand for the originals restored. With Disney having purchased the rights to Star Wars, making their own restored versions would have brought in a lot of money.

Some theorize that George Lucas put it in the contract when he sold the rights to Star Wars that Disney couldn’t sell the theatrical versions commercially. They could have possibly only gotten the rights for the special editions.

However, there’s also the fact that doing something like Project 4K80 and the others would have cost a lot of money. While Disney is still selling plenty of the special editions, there’s arguably no need to spend money on expensive restoration of The Empire Strikes Back and the others.

Could Disney Ever Release Their Own Version?

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Others say that there’s still a chance that the theatrical versions will still be officially released. 2027 will mark the 50th anniversary of the original Star Wars. Disney will likely do something to mark the occasion, such as releasing official theatrical versions.

Of course, it could also just be hopeful thinking. Even if it were true, it would be years before it happened.

The Special Editions Have A Lot Of Haters

empire strikes back

Many fans don’t like the special editions. Among the chief complaints is what is often called poor CGI. There are also a number of creative choices that have proven contentious–perhaps most famously the choice to have the villain Greedo shoot at Han Solo first, rather than the other way around, in the cantina scene of Star Wars.

Finding Them Isn’t Difficult

While there’s no chance of theatrical versions of Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, and The Empire Strikes Back being officially released any time in the next couple of years, the fan-made releases of 4K77, 4K80, and 4K83 are available online.

They aren’t hard to find. While they aren’t widely promoted for safety, a quick search on the internet will take you to them.

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