Lucasfilm abandons studio plan
George Lucas' film production company has abandoned plans to build a sprawling studio in a rustic valley north of San Francisco, saying it has no desire to be seen as "an evil empire."
Lucasfilm Ltd, the force behind the Star Wars movies, surprised Marin County by announcing that it has pulled the plug on the controversial Grady Ranch project, citing bitter opposition from neighbours and delays in the approval process.
The company said it would construct new facilities elsewhere and hoped to sell the historic farmland to a developer interested in building low-income housing in an area about 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
"We love working and living in Marin, but the residents of Lucas Valley have fought this project for 25 years, and enough is enough," the company said in a statement.
"We have several opportunities to build the production stages in communities that see us as a creative asset, not as an evil empire."
The Grady Ranch project would have marked a major expansion of Lucasfilm in Lucas Valley, which has been home to its Skywalker Ranch for three decades.
The valley is named for a 19th century rancher with no relation to the Star Wars creator.
The company and its backers said the new production studio would generate hundreds of high-paying jobs and tax revenue. Lucasfilm hoped to break ground by next year.
But the project generated strong opposition from homeowners and environmentalists who said it would increase traffic, noise and environmental damage on the pristine countryside, despite company promises to preserve open space and reduce impacts on the community.