LOS ANGELES - 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 sequel due in theaters Dec. 17, but the original 1982 saga starring Jeff Bridges as computer hacker Kevin Flynn, which has gone out of print on DVD.
"Tron" director Steven Lisberger recently remastered the film, color-correcting it and reframing certain shots for a planned Blu-ray edition. But Disney hasn't set a release date for Lisberger's new version, and as the studio 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 less than $20. Now, used DVDs are being auctioned for more than three times that amount.
Netflix lists "Tron" as "availability unknown." 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 a chance to capitalize on interest in their titles. In 2009, Lionsgate released a remaster of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" the same week Warner Bros. opened "Terminator: Salvation" in theaters, and in 2004, 20th Century Fox unveiled a "Star Wars" boxed 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 computer-generated effects and a prescient story about computer culture. Today, its effects might look quaint to sophisticated audiences.
Disney says it will release Lisberger's remaster of "Tron" sometime in 2011. 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.
"That film was ahead of its time," says Jan Saxton, an analyst at Adams Media Research. "But they want the focus to be on their new effort."