Star Wars' George Lucas memorabilia museum to be built in Chicago

It is major coup for the city, which is keen to boost its global reputation

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The Independent Culture

Chicago has been awarded the coveted prize of hosting George Lucas’ much-anticipated museum of arts and movie memorabilia.

It is a major victory for America’s third-largest city, which beat off competition from San Francisco and Los Angeles to be chosen by the Star Wars creator.

Lucas said in a written statement that he hopes to open the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in 2018.

“I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts,” Lucas said.

The selection was somewhat of a surprise, given Lucas’s close ties to the Golden State. He is a native of California, while Lucasfilm's visual effects division is based in San Francisco and the headquarters for Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound is across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County.

However, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed hard for his city - and Chicago was always given a good chance at the Lucas  museum. Lucas’ wife, prominent businesswoman Mellody Hobson, is from Chicago and the city closed down Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore so the couple could host a star-studded party to celebrate after their California wedding.

 

Chicago has offered up an area of real estate along the lakefront that is near other attractions, including the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History.

Mr Emanuel has long been trying to portray Chicago as a global destination. Throughout the decision process, a spokesman for Lucas praised the city for the attention it heaps on culture, architecture, innovations and education - some of which are the themes Lucas' museum will seek to promote.

“Chicago's a great city. We have a tradition that resonates closely with the way George Lucas has described his museum, as a museum of visual storytelling,” said Gillian Darlow, a co-chairwoman of Chicago's site selection task force.

“He wants to help inspire other people, especially kids, to have bold visions the way he did.”

Mr Emanuel met reporters briefly yesterday evening at City Hall to announce the decision.

“I can't thank George and Mellody enough,” he said. He pledged to work with the community to develop plans for the museum.

The news was anticipated San Francisco after a board rejected Lucas' proposal to build the museum near the Crissy Field, a former US Army airfield in the Presidio, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The board then offered Lucas a second site near a digital arts centre.

“We are very disappointed to see Mr Lucas go to Chicago,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for the park.

“The Presidio Trust turned down his concept for the main location, but we immediately offered him a second locale.

"He never responded back to our generous offer."

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M Lee said that he hopes to continue working with Lucas and his foundation on "other endeavours that will help educate the young people of the Bay Area, his home".

The plans emerge amid filming of JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode VII, after Lucas sold the rights to Disney in 2012.

Due to reach cinemas in December 2015, it is understood that the film will be set 30 years after the events in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, the third Star Wars film to be released.

Episode VII will also see the return of the three principal characters from the original trilogy, reuniting Harrison Ford, as Han Solo, with Mark Hamill, playing Luke Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher, playing Princess Leia.

The production schedule was thrown into chaos after Ford broke his leg during an accident on set – but the actor is said to be "doing well" and keen to get back to work.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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