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"Star Wars" creator George Lucas owns enough movie mementos to fill a museum. And when you're George Lucas, you can build that museum if you want to. And that's what he plans to do. It'll not only house the filmmaker's memorabilia, but his vast collection of artwork, too. And three cities are drawing light sabers, trying to highlight why they should be home to the museum. San Francisco and Chicago are each making a case. Los Angeles just entered the fray too. NPR's Cheryl Corley and Richard Gonzales teamed up for our report.

RICHARD GONZALES, BYLINE: This story begins in San Francisco, not far from Skywalker Ranch, George Lucas's moviemaking center in Marin County.

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GONZALES: Lucas says he'll spend $300 million of his own money to build the proposed Lucas Cultural Arts Museum and provide a $400 million endowment after his death. Here's Lucas talking about his vision, in a website devoted to the project.

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GEORGE LUCAS: The museum that we're trying to build here is one that you could take the whole family to.

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ALEC GUINNESS: (As Ben Kenobi) Use the force, Luke.

GONZALES: The museum would be home to "Star Wars" characters, like Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, plus Lucas's private art collection, featuring works by Norman Rockwell and N.C. Wyeth, among others. Lucas originally wanted to build his museum in the San Francisco Presidio, a federal park near the Golden Gate Bridge, but park officials rejected that idea. Now San Francisco officials are scrambling. They're trying to persuade Lucas to consider another site. Here's San Francisco mayor, Ed Lee.

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MAYOR ED LEE: Digital arts, through George Lucas's wonderful work, started here. To have that museum right here, under his name, would be a wonderful tribute to that. And it is our history, and that's why we want George to be here.

GONZALES: But Mayor Lee knows that first rejection opened the door up to competition.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: That's right. Cheryl Corley, here in Chicago, where city leaders say they're up to the fight to bring the Lucas Museum here.

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KURT SUMMERS: We are the protagonists in, you know, sort of a good versus evil.

CORLEY: Not too hard to imagine who Chicagoan Kurt Summers thinks is the evil empire. Summers is a co-chair of the task force that Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, directed to find a location for the museum here.

SUMMERS: We engaged fully, which is the only kind of way he knows how to engage. And that created real competition, the result of that, we saw San Francisco step up its game as well.

CORLEY: I'm standing now near Chicago's lakefront, on the city's museum campus. This is the potential home of the Lucas Museum. The city would convert 17 acres currently home to two parking lots behind Soldier Field. That's the stadium home of the Chicago Bears football team. So I asked people here where they think a Lucas museum should be, Chicago or San Francisco?

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BRANDON MARTIN: Chicago will win it hands down. It's the best city alive - I mean, more attraction. I mean, it's self-explanatory.

EMILY HOAK: Chicago. I think that there's more people that travel here from out of town to visit and check out the city. And it just seems like a cooler place for that versus San Francisco.

CORLEY: That was Chicagoan Brandon Martin (ph) and Emily Hoak (ph), who was visiting from Austin, Texas. Chicago would lease the land it's offering to Lucas for $1. City officials believe his museum, joining the Field Museum of Natural History, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium on the museum campus, would bring in a couple more million visitors to the city each year, along with millions in tourist and tax revenue.

GONZALES: Well, not so fast there, Cheryl. San Francisco is also offering George Lucas a scenic, waterfront site for the museum, right here along the Embarcadero. It's a road that runs along the shore of the San Francisco Bay, and it offers spectacular views of the water. And when you ask anybody around here what they think, they'll tell you, the museum should be here in San Francisco.

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JOANNE HAMILTON: Oh, it should definitely be in San Francisco.

GONZALES: Why?

HAMILTON: Why not? San Francisco is better than Chicago.

GONZALES: That is Joanne Hamilton (ph). She and her friend, Ashali Sundurajan (ph), are "Star Wars" geeks.

ASHALI SUNDURAJAN: Oh my God.

HAMILTON: Magic, wonder and whimsy.

SUNDURAJAN: Right?

HAMILTON: Right?

SUNDURAJAN: I'm from Illinois, and I would still pick San Francisco. I mean, there's a reason I moved here and not Chicago. So I'm just saying.

HAMILTON: Yep.

GONZALES: Lucas calls Chicago his second home. And he is married to influential Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson. Kurt Summers says that's a plus. And he says, while San Francisco might once have had home field advantage, Chicago has a very compelling case. Summers says he's not talking smack, but he does have a message.

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SUMMERS: I believe the force is with us.

GONZALES: San Francisco would say the same. And so, too, Los Angeles, which has offered its own waterfront plan. But as a small Jedi Yoda would say, impossible to see, the future is - until the decision, expected sometime this summer. Richard Gonzales. NPR News, San Francisco.

CORLEY: And Cheryl Corley. NPR News, Chicago.

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