Kids, I'm old. I've seen things. I've seen things you wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion ... tears in rain ...
Yes, yes, yes. I lost my train of thought there for a moment, but trust me when I tell you I'm going someplace.
I have seen things, and -- back in the days of my distant youth -- there was a little TV innovator who went by the name of Glen A. Larson. Now, many will tell you that he was a bit of a huckster. Essentially, their argument is that ol' Glen would watch entertainment trends, gauge when something was popular, and then he'd run up the tentpole his own iteration of it. For example, everyone who was alive back then and interested in genre programming knew full well that TV's Battlestar Galactica was Larson's TV equivalent to the silver screen's Star Wars (now Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope). And when that proved a bit too expensive for network budgets, he tried toning it down a bit with Buck Rogers In The 25th Century. In the process, he amped up the sexiness (hello, Erin Gray) and maybe even dumbed down Galactica's ideals into something a bit more mainstream, a bit closer thematically to some of the bits and pieces of Star Wars that were embraced with mass appeal.
But for those of us truly watching closely, that's not all Glen did.
On top of securing TV broadcast rights for these intellectual properties, he encouraged the good folks at Universal Pictures to think outside the box by also prepping THEATRICAL RUNS both domestically and around the world. The thinking at the time was that by taking this approach a major studio might offset its costs of TV production by accepting whatever box office take was available. Given the fact that sometimes these shows couldn't secure distribution rights around the world as quickly as could mainstream fare, opening Galactica and Buck Rogers in theaters in those countries almost insured that there would be some interest -- arguably much more than there where it would be available in the regular time slot. While I've never read a full breakdown on the financial returns of this experiment, I can say that it possibly achieved a small measure of success if only to heighten awareness of a new brand for fans to cling to.
Where I've always argued that Universal made a calculated error was in not providing something a bit different to the theatrical experience. From what I have read, the first Galactica flick ended up excising some of the plot and scenes in order to get it to what the studio felt was an acceptable length -- all well and good -- but seriously? Couldn't you also have created a bit of extra content -- a few extra scenes here and there -- that were specifically shot for theatrical exhibition, thereby giving fans a more significant reason to go to the multiplexes? Sure, there would've been some increased costs, but I think even George Lucas proved (with his Special Editions) as well as Peter Jackson proved (with his Extended Editions) that fans hungry for more were willing to both pay for it and pay handsomely in some cases.
Indeed, Lucas (and Lucasfilm) also flirted with this idea -- TV deals sharpened with theatrical runs -- with two live-action Ewoks / Endor-based films in the 1980's. The Ewok Adventure (aka Caravan Of Courage) and Ewoks: The Battle For Endor may not have been reverential classics in the Star Wars universe in any respect, but they were produced on a TV scale and given the chance outside the U.S. to reap some rewards from box office receipts. To my knowledge, there was no new content recorded for either of those (and I've also never seen any financial accounting for them), but I have corresponded online with folks who remember watching them on the silver screen. That alone tells me some folks ponied up the cash, and it was perhaps an endeavor worth untaking.
Lastly, have you heard of Fathom Events? Fathom Events is an organization linked up nationally (maybe globally, for all I know), and they've held special presentation of not only live theatre, cinema classics, and concerts but also special TV engagements. In fact, I've been to several of their broadcasts wherein they had episodes of the original Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Doctor Who in theaters. In all of these events, there was some extra content also aired -- behind the scenes stuff, interviews, etc. -- and I can say that the theater houses were nearly at capacity on each occasion. That, alone, tells me there's an audience for SciFi and Fantasy like no other ... and I think it's a big miss that there isn't more of this done.
Flashforward to today: the Mouse House is spending an incredible amount of money bringing Star Wars -- perhaps one of filmdom's greatest THEATRICAL properties -- to the small screen.
Now, I'm not opposed to The Mandalorian show. I'm not opposed to the Obi-Wan Kenobi show. I'm not opposed to the Book Of Boba Fett. This isn't a statement on q-u-a-l-i-t-y, mind you, because I think each of them -- even the critically acclaimed Andor -- have their strengths and weaknesses. But ... why not produce a theatrical cut that could air, say, six months later? It would have to be something with exclusive footage and maybe an interview bit here and/or there, but do you expect me to believe that fandom wouldn't support this? Again, I realize that this may not work with the way one division of a major studio (film) fiscally accounts for costs and whatnot, but where there's a will there's a way ... and I'll go to my grave saying this is a big, big, big miss.
In fact, I'll always argue that doing so might very well be the kind of tactic that could save not just TV and not just the movies: it could save the entire entertainment industry.