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Chicago Wins Bid for Billion-Dollar George Lucas Museum

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood June 25, 2014 at 12:08PM

It's official: Chicago has beat out San Francisco and Los Angeles to be the site of an interactive museum that will house "Star Wars" creator George Lucas's sizable collection of art and moviemaking mementoes.
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George Lucas
George Lucas

It's official: Chicago has beat out San Francisco and Los Angeles to be the site of an interactive museum that will house "Star Wars" creator George Lucas's sizable collection of art and moviemaking mementoes.

After the Chicago Sun-Times reported the news, Lucas released the following statement: "Building in Chicago is the right decision for the museum, but the Bay Area will always be my home. I grew up here, made all my films here and raised my family in the Bay Area."

It certainly is a bit of a strange choice: Lucas has spent his life and career not only making films in the Bay Area, but also supporting the area's economy.  Lucasfilm's headquarters is located in the stunning Presidio in the northwest corner of San Francisco (right next to the Golden Gate Bridge).  

But the conservative Presidio Trust, the federal agency that controls the park, rejected Lucas's plan to build his museum on Crissy Field.  And he rejected the trusts's proposed secondary location (in another part of the Presidio).  So Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped up to the plate, eager to poach the museum and help his city reap the rewards of its tourist draw.  The fact that Lucas's wife, high-powered lawyer Mellody Hobson, spends time in Chicago was also a significant factor. 

The $1 billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be located on a lakefront 17-acre site between Soldier Field and McCormick Place.  It will open in 2018.  Lucas has always wanted his museum to be near the water, so he'll get to fulfill that wish even in Chicago.  The project will be entirely funded by the "Star Wars" mogul.

Still, this is a big loss for San Francisco, which was the natural choice for the museum.  Some of the museum's collection--which contains a trove of Norman Rockwell paintings, special effects that Lucas developed at Industrial Light & Magic and, of course, a scale model of the Millennium Falcon--can be seen at lucasmuseum.org.

This article is related to: George Lucas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lucasfilm


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.