Rentals of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace -- released in 2000 on VHS and in 2001 on DVD--spiked when Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones was released in theaters in May, 2002. Now retailers are again renting all available copies of those films as well as older Star Wars installments as Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith rings up record box office receipts.
Of course, many hard-core fans already own the five Star Wars installments available on home video. But even some devotees might need a refresher course on story lines.
Norm Hill, promotions director at Seattle's Scarecrow Video, said his rental activity for Star Wars titles doubled in opening days of Revenge of the Sith, with available inventory soon completely rented out.
Youthful curiosity about the franchise's older titles is helping to stoke the rental surge, a Blockbuster spokesman said.
"My children were into the first two episodes," he said. "Now they are interested in what led up to all of that. We're seeing [that trend] across the country too."
Blockbuster locations have seen all their available Star Wars titles--including the feature films and the animated spin-offs--renting out since April. But despite strong activity, rentailers don't know how long the Star Wars honeymoon period will last.
"It depends on how people receive [Revenge of the Sith]," Hill said. "There was good word-of-mouth before the film, but people posting in chat rooms don't seem to like it. Will Batman [Begins] kill it, or will it roll all the way through 'til Christmas?"