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George Lucas stepping down from LucasFilm to focus on smaller movies

It’s been long-rumored that George Lucas was looking to retire as head of LucasFilm, but now it seems that the move is official. He will be replaced by Kathleen Kennedy as co-chair of the production company and will stay on to groom her for the new role.

A LucasFilm press release explains:

Lucasfilm Ltd. today announced that Kathleen Kennedy will become Co-Chair of Lucasfilm. In an effort to move forward with his retirement plans, George Lucas will work with Kathleen Kennedy to transition into her new role. Lucas will become Co-Chairman of the Board of Lucasfilm and continue as CEO. Micheline Chau will remain as President and COO of Lucasfilm, and continue to focus on the day-to-day operations of the business.

Why Kennedy (who is described as “one of the most successful and esteemed producers and executives in the film industry”)? Mr. Lucas explains:

It was important that my successor not only be someone with great creative passion and proven leadership abilities, but also someone who loves movies. I care deeply about my employees—it is their creativity and hard work that has made this company what it is today. As the company grows and expands I wanted to be sure the employees of Lucasfilm have a strong captain for the ship. I also care deeply about our fans and it was important to have someone who would carry on the passion and care that I’ve given the films over the years. So for me Kathy was the obvious choice, she is a trusted friend and one of the most respected producers and executives in the industry.

As for how Mr. Lucas will be filling his days after his departure, it seems that the man wants to make more low-budget, high-concept films like his classic THX1138. “I’m moving away from the company, I’m moving away from all my businesses, I’m finishing all my obligations and I’m going to retire to my garage with my saw and hammer and build hobby movies,” Lucas said in an upcoming interview with Empire. “I’ve always wanted to make movies that were more experimental in nature, and not have to worry about them showing in movie theatres.”
The perceptive among you will notice that neither Lucas’ statement nor the press release ever state that Lucas will be completely hands-off with his company. Given the man’s endless perfectionism (read: desire to add new CGI to films that are arguably better off without it), it would be surprising if he completely removed himself from the production of upcoming Star Wars properties, but then again, it’s also equally likely that he’ll get so wrapped up in creating his experimental “hobby movies” that he might forget to monkey around with his decades-old classics.
For that matter, we might even get a few new classics out of Mr. Lucas. His best work always sprang up out of desperate filming situations and tiny budgets, so maybe this shift is for the best.

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