George Lucas

The Cities Strike Back: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago Vie for “Star Wars” Collection

In a galaxy not too far away, three cities are caught in a game of tug-of-museum over who will lay claim to the archives of “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.

San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago are seeking to host the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, which will reportedly contain more than 500,000 pieces of art and movie memorabilia from the director’s personal archives.

The three possible contenders are actively campaigning to have the home of the $1 billion collection built on their turf. They are leveraging social media, property deals and personal appeals to sway Lucas their way and signaling a willingness to make concessions to accommodate the construction

San Francisco is floating a hot piece of property in the city's Embarcadero section as the museum's future home according to The San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed area of land near the water has been eyed and rejected for development in the past.

Mayor Ed Lee unveiled two large banners — one above the entrance of city hall, and another at the proposed site, Seawall Lot 330 —  reading “George Lucas, please build your museum in San Francisco for the world to enjoy.”

A group of former San Francisco mayors are using the force of the pen to aid the case, writing a letter  to Lucas saying they "whole-heartedly believe your museum – and gift to education and the arts – belongs here in San Francisco," according to the Chronicle. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom was not included, but signed his own "Dear George Lucas" ad, which appeared earlier in The San Francisco Chronicle, calling on Lucas to build in the city.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, meanwhile, is trying to channel his own Jedi mind tricks through social media, promoting the use of a #WhyLucasInLA hashtag. So far, more than 200 supporters have used the hashtag to reach out to a mass audience with the plea for Lucas to build in the Southern California city. Garcetti told The Hollywood Reporter that he wrote to Lucas, urging the Hollywood legend to "consider opening your museum in a place where its impact can be amplified like no other, Los Angeles.” 

The mayor envisions building the unique site in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Exposition Park, located near the University of Southern California, where the famous director attended film school. To make room for the museum, the city plans to demolish a portion of the sports arena. 

Norm Langer of the famous Langer’s Deli has also joined the recruitment effort, reconstructing the restaurant’s marquee to read, “Mr. Lucas, build your museum celebrating the art of storytelling here in Los Angeles!”

Chicago's message for its California competitors might be “Great kid, don’t get cocky", as the windy city may try to capitalize on the special place it holds in Lucas' heart. The director lives in Chicago part time with his wife, Mellody Hobson, a businesswoman in the area. “The city of Chicago has enthusiastically welcomed me, and I consider Chicago to be my second home," Lucas said in a statement. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed building the museum on two parking lots located near Soldier Field, the stadium that plays host to the Chicago Bears. While Chicago can't provide California's climate appeal, Emanuel is offering to lease the land to Lucas for $1, a similar arrangement other large cultural institutions have with the Chicago Park District.

While some tailgating Bears fans worry over traffic and parking problems that could arise from the plan, supporters say the boost to tourism would be worth the sacrifices.

So which city will win the fight? As Yoda said, "Impossible to see, the future is." Lucas is expected to make his decision sometime this summer.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated a committee had considered 57 cities for the museum.

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