Lucky Chicago. They won the sweepstakes. They get to have George Lucas' Museum of Narrative Art. The City of the Big Shoulders, Pork Butcher to the World, is no longer Second City, at least not to San Francisco and Los Angeles. The West Coast Star Wars fan will have to catch a flight to the Midwest if they want to sneak a peek at Mister Lucas' collection of illustrations, paintings and digital art. Lucky Chicago. At least they're not getting the Official Star Wars Museum. That venue doesn't exist. Not yet.
All this talk of luck, however got me to thinking: Who really is lucky here? While I respect and revere George Lucas for his ability to put forth a vision of the future, or the past if you believe the credits, I wonder how he might fare in today's box office-driven world. In 1977, the Summer Blockbuster was just a couple of years old. Elvis had just died and the Sex Pistols had just blown up, not unlike the Death Star blowing up. I'll ask you to refrain from imagining the King of Rock and Roll exploding on the toilet inside Graceland. What I'm suggesting is that the cultural vortex that was being created at that time was most certainly what made this myth of the Skywalker clan and their involvement in the galactic rebellion. It was fresh. It was new. It was exciting. It had some of the most regrettable dialogue in motion picture history. And I spent that summer returning to the theater again and again to make sure I memorized every syllable.
It was 1977. Movie theaters could keep a film on their screens for weeks at a time. The mega-superfaplex concrete bunkers that we troop into now to see the next big thing were still a distant dream. Movie profits were still discussed in millions of dollars. That's with an "M." And most importantly, there was no video on demand. If you wanted to see "A New Hope," there was one place you had to go. Nobody's modem was going to handle that kind of traffic in 1977. Nobody had a modem in their home in 1977. Except maybe Matthew Broderick. Digital Art, indeed.
No, it was a series of very fortunate events that generated the zeitgeist George Lucas dropped his little science fiction movie into nearly forty years ago. It's probably just a mildly curious twist of fate that kept Smokey and the Bandit from becoming the cultural touchstone that we now recognize as Star Wars. The story is essentially the same, and that black Trans Am was every bit as cool as the Millennium Falcon. It could make the Buford T. Justice run in less than twelve parsecs. Or something like that.
So, if I'm in the Windy City in the not too distant future, or long ago if that's how this works, I'll try to stop in and see the art collection that George Lucas has been able to amass as a direct result of the money I've pumped into his franchise and attendant merchandising over the years. Or maybe I'll head on down to Jupiter, Florida and take in some real film history.