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Netflix Nerdblock: Here's Why You Can't Rent 'Star Wars' Films Online

Fans looking to catch up on the 'Star Wars' movies before seeing 'The Force Awakens' will have to spend some serious cash.
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Fans looking to catch up on the Star Wars movies before seeing "The Force Awakens" will have to spend some serious cash.

That is because none of the previous films, from the 1977 original to the Jar Jar Binks-filled "Phantom Menace," are available to rent online. They also aren't available on subscription streaming services like Netflix or Hulu.

On Amazon, you can buy the digital version of each film for $19.99 a piece, or buy all six films in "Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection" for $89.99. The same deal is available over at Google Play, iTunes and the Microsoft Store. The movie bundle is slightly more expensive in the PlayStation Store ($99.99).

"Right now even casual fans are willing to pay more," Raphael Thomadsen, a marketing professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told NBC News.

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That is because everyone — from die-hard to casual fans — wants to catch up before watching "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which comes out on December 18.

The move from Disney, which bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion, doesn't surprise Thomadsen or Robin Diedrich, senior equity analyst at investment firm Edward Jones.

"Disney has used this strategy successfully throughout its history with great success for films that have that big of a presence," Diedrich told NBC News. "Try finding 'Snow White,' Beauty and the Beast,' 'The Little Mermaid' and other classics for rent."

So will the "Star Wars" movies ever be available to rent or watch on Netflix? NBC News reached out to Disney but the company did not reply.

Netflix will start streaming Disney movies and TV shows in 2016, thanks to a deal signed back in 2012. It's not clear, however, if those will include the "Star Wars" films.

Dawn Edmiston, marketing professor at College of William and Mary, doesn't think fans will have to wait forever.

"It would not surprise me if Disney is simply using a windowing strategy that drives consumer purchase during the holiday season and then rental of titles will eventually be available," Edmiston told NBC News.

Despite the lack of rentals or availability on Netflix, Disney has generated an immense amount of hype for "The Force Awakens." The film smashed the record for pre-sale tickets sold, according to the Hollywood Reporter, passing the $100 million mark. (The previous record-holder was "The Dark Knight Rises" with $25 million.)

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Edmiston called the limited availability of the movies a "unique situation that would only be possible with a studio like Disney and a franchise like 'Star Wars.'"

"Only 'Harry Potter,'" she said, "truly rivals the 'Star Wars' franchise relative to number of movies, total domestic box office and, most important, fan engagement."