For my part, it was more sarcasm than outraged howling, and directed at the industry as a whole as much as Lucas in particular. The practice of releasing Special Edition after Special Edition of every other film has left me a little cynical, and Lucas's attitude toward his fans just rubbed me wrong, and I'm only a casual fan:
Lucas can tweak as much as he wants in version after version. However, as you said, many people remember the original as a beloved part of their past. And that's the Star Wars
they want to see - the one that blew them away on the big screen. Dated now perhaps, but revolutionary at the time. So why not have the originals available on DVD to capture that magic? I'm sure the millions he'd spend producing it would be made up in sales from all those pesky purists.
I just have a hard time believing that the original version won't be released eventually. (About the time those VCR tapes start wearing out?) Perhaps I'm wrong, and Lucas will stick to his guns. However, the demand is out there, and Lucas did practically invent movie merchandising. So how would he justify it? It's not his version, so it'll have to be "for the fans." The same fans he's alienating now with his dismissive comments.
Yes, Star Wars
is Lucas's baby, and he's got a right to do whatever he wants with it. Fine. Just give people a choice. I rather like what New Line did with Lord of the Rings, offering the theatrical version and the extended version within a relatively short time. Yes, many fans bought both versions, making the studio et al a lot more money. However, people were told their options up front, and could choose to grab the "original" right away, or hold out a few months for the extended release. Months being the key here, not a song and dance about it being the one true version and then a few years later, finding a reason to spit out another one. You can choose whether or not to believe that Peter Jackson really felt the theatrical version was the definitive cut and the extended was more for the fans (these comments coming at the time the theatrical versions were being promoted). I was just happy to have the choice.
If New Line had only released the theatrical versions of LOTR with no hint of the extended version to come, then put out the extended edition afterwards (say this December), I'm betting they could have made more money in the long run. People who had no idea there was going to be an extended version would already have bought the originals, and the extended scenes would be hard to pass up. More would have ended up with both versions than have them now. And you'd have heard more sniping about money-grubbing studios, directors, etc. And yes, there surely will be more releases of LOTR down the line with bloopers and all that; Jackson's already discussed it. Will he and New Line make piles and piles of more money from it? Of course. But at least fans won't have had to wait for years to get their hands on what they feel is the "real" movie, after being told they should just forget it ever existed.
I've got no problem with Lucas or any other director or studio making money, as long as they don't forget the people whose money enables them to keep cranking out more "visions."