The force, it seems, was with Los Angeles. And San Francisco was left on the dark side.
Star Wars creator George Lucas and his team were on the side of the City of Angels over the City by the Bay on Tuesday, choosing L.A. as the home of a museum that will showcase his life’s work along with a huge collection of exhibits on film history and art.
After what organizers called “extensive due diligence and deliberation,” they announced that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be built in Exposition Park, where it will sit alongside the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Science Center, which houses the space shuttle Endeavour.
Lucas has been trying to build the museum for nearly a decade and is financing the project by himself with plans to spend over $1 billion US.
It had several possible locations, but the choice eventually came down to perpetual rivals in Northern and Southern California.
San Francisco offered Treasure Island, with its scenic views in the middle of the bay, as a home that the museum would have had virtually to itself.
The museum will house Lucas’s personal collection, which includes 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items including storyboards and costumes from The Wizard of Oz, Casablanca and, of course, Star Wars.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti emphasized that it would not be just “a Star Wars museum.”
“This is a collection of narrative art in a city that has the best storytellers and story makers in the world,” he said at a news conference.
“I am disappointed, of course, but must respect the decision,” San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee said in a statement. “I am pleased that the museum will be built in California for our state’s residents to someday enjoy.”
Lucas a USC graduate
L.A. seemed an obvious choice for Lucas, not merely because of its film industry legacy. He is an alumnus and major donor to the film school at the University of Southern California, which is right across the street from the museum site.
However, Lucas has strong San Francisco ties as well. He has lived in the Bay Area for most of his life, and the city was home to Lucasfilm until Disney Co. bought it in 2012.
Garcetti said the Exposition Park site will allow museum-hoppers to see movie-magic spacecraft and then walk over to see the real thing: the space shuttle.
“You can go from imagining space, to actually seeing how it got done,” the mayor said. “You can see how we are inspired by the natural world, and see how we put it on the screen.”
Exposition Park also is home to the LA Memorial Coliseum, where the USC Trojans and Los Angeles Rams play football, and an under-construction stadium for a new Major League Soccer team, LAFC. A light rail line that opened just last year connects the park with downtown Los Angeles and the beaches to the West.
The project also comes amid a museum boom in Los Angeles that includes The Broad, a buzzing new contemporary art museum downtown.
And it makes Southern California the definitive home base of the Star Wars galaxy, with Disney having bought the rights to the franchise and now building a Star Wars-themed land within its Magic Kingdom in Anaheim.