LOS ANGELES >> 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 LA as the home of a museum that will showcase his life’s work along with a huge collection of more general film history and other art.
After what organizers called “extensive due diligence and deliberation,” they announced that the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will be built in LA’s Exposition Park, where it will sit alongside other more traditional museums 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.
It had several possible locations but eventually came down to yet another heated rivalry between the two always-competing cities, with San Francisco offering Treasure Island with its scenic views in the middle of the bay as a home that the museum would have had virtually to itself.
“We have been humbled by the overwhelmingly positive support we received from both San Francisco and Los Angeles during our selection process,” the museum organizers said in a statement.
It will house an extensive personal collection that includes 40,000 paintings, illustrations and film-related items including storyboards and costumes from “The Wizard of Oz,” ”Casablanca” and of course “Star Wars.”
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti emphasized at a news conference after the decision that this is not 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,” Garcetti said.
LA seemed an obvious choice for Lucas, not just 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.
Garcetti was especially happy that, as Lucas had also expressed to him, museum-hoppers at Exposition Park could see the space shuttle or dinosaur bones at neighboring institutions to seeing how they are fictionalized.
“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.”
But San Francisco would have been a natural choice too. Lucas has lived in the Bay Area for most of his life, and it was home to Lucasfilm until Disney Co. bought it in 2012.
“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.”
In addition to its two major museums, Exposition Park 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.