Tron: Legacy is in cinemas, so why can't we watch Tron anywhere?

Before we see Tron: Legacy we want to revisit the 1982 original. Oh, except we can't. Here's why...

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
4 min read

Tron: Legacy blasts into cinemas on 17 December, and it's fair to say we're a bit excited. The eye-popping, ground-breaking CGI effects of Tron made a lasting impression on Crave: the famous light cycle topped our list of movie tech we want now, and we've planned a team outing to see the new film. But before we do that, we want to revisit the 1982 original... except we can't.

We can play Tron: LiveCycleon our iPhones, and Tron: Evolution on our games consoles. But Tron the film is nowhere to be seen on any UK film-streaming websites, such as LoveFilm, Blinkbox, SeeSaw, YouTube or Virgin Movies. Making the original available on-demand to capitalise on the buzz surrounding the sequel is a no-brainer to us, but apparently it hasn't occurred to anyone at Tron Towers.

Tron: Legacy features the original film's Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner, alongside our own Michael Sheen and John Hurt, and the delightfully named Yaya DaCosta. The soundtrack is performed by Daft Punk, after the original was scored by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos. It's been long-hyped and has revived interest in what was previously just a fondly remembered B-movie.

So why can't we watch it? Tron is a Disney film, and Disney hasn't licensed it in electronic form. Disney notoriously only sells its flagship animated films on home media in seven-year cycles, during which films are taken off sale and locked in the so-called 'Disney Vault'. Tron isn't one of the films that gets regularly locked away, so it isn't hard to get hold of a physical copy.

Yes, we know, it's on DVD...

The Tron DVD will currently set you back around £15-£20 from online shops. You can rent the DVD from LoveFilm or reserve it online and collect it from a Blockbuster store. Yes, and you could also pay a band of travelling players to act it out for you, or perhaps daub the story on a cave wall.

We're not interested in such old-fashioned fripperies as physical media. We don't want to pay £20, we don't want to go out in the snow to a shop or video store, and we don't want to wait days for a LoveFilm disk to turn up. We want to watch Tron at the click of a mouse, instantly, without leaving our computer. It's really not too much to ask -- this is 2010, for MCP's sake.

On-demand is better than off to BitTorrent

Disney told us it has no electronic deals in place for Tron. Why the heck not? With the sequel hitting cinemas any day, interest in the franchise will hit an all-time high. There's a resurgence in interest from people who, like us, want to remind themselves of the original film but without the hassle or expense of renting or buying.

It might even work the other way, with viewers reminded of the original's greatness swayed to buy a cinema ticket for Legacy. There's gold in them thar online streaming hills, and more to the point, if Disney made the film available on-demand there'd be no need for those who feel the same way as us to turn to dreaded piracy.

Disney has a US-only online streaming site that offers American viewers all the classics, and plenty of not-so-classics. A certain sci-fi epic is conspicuous by its absence. Yes, Disney will stream The Cat from Outer Space but not Tron. The films available are all inexplicably the same price: That Darn Cat, Tonka and Space Buddies will cost parents the same price as Toy Story and Robin Hood. Good luck with that business model.

It's not just Disney that has this online mental block. Recently, Crave wanted to renew acquaintances with Shane Meadows' brilliant film This is England before enjoying the Channel 4 sequel This is England '86. Nope, sorry, Crave. Months later, Channel 4 has launched its own Film4OD streaming service and now offers the original film, but the TV series has disappeared again. At the time of writing it is available on 4OD -- but only the first episode. Madness!

Tron and on

Seriously, what part of on-demand do these people not understand? If we get a sudden hankering to watch a particular obscure arthouse movie at 3am then we'd be philosophical if it wasn't available, but these are hugely successful and relatively recent films that people want to revisit as sequels arrive.

Tell us your thoughts in the comments: are we being too demanding with our on-demand demands, or are there any films you'd love to see online? It isn't rocket science to make films like Tron available, thus earning a few quid off an old title, satisfying customers, and heading off piracy. It isn't even light-cycle science.