Abu Dhabi will win, regardless of whether the proposed Star Wars museum is located near Saadiyat Island's Cultural District or if it is sited where filming took place in the Empty Quarter.
In a galaxy not so far away after all
No matter where the sets from the latest Star Wars movie end up, the certainty is that fans of the franchise will beat a path to that location. An example of this is Tunisia, where nearly 40 years after the first film, enthusiasts continue to visit remote sets that were never intended to last beyond the final day of filming.
So there is no surprise that Abu Dhabi tourism officials are fully aware of the potential gold mine presented by having part of the latest movie in the series, Star Wars Episode VII, filmed in the Emirate. Sets and props from the film are in storage and have been earmarked by Abu Dhabi-based media hub twofour54 for use in a museum.
The big question is where this should be located. As twofour54 chief executive Noura Al Kaabi explained, Saadiyat Island is a likely location and the experts involved in the Cultural District are already giving advice on how to curate the objects.
The appeal of this is obvious. A Star Wars museum would serve to broaden the appeal of the island, acting as a more populist counterbalance to the higher-brow local versions of the Louvre and the Guggenheim, as well as the Zayed National Museum. One can imagine that parents travelling with young children will be particularly grateful of being able to offer the prospect of visiting a museum based on movie culture to balance the high-art offerings of the Cultural District.
But then there is also a compelling argument for the sets to be preserved in the remote locations of the Empty Quarter where filming actually took place. One could contend that the otherworldly scenery of soaring dunes and stark sabkhas that originally attracted the film makers is as integral to the experience as the props now in the care of twofour54. As The National reported last month, the film crew created a “whole world” in the desert, including shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower and dozens of jet-powered fast buggies.
The remote location would not be an impediment to tourists. Close by the film sites is the five-star luxury of Qasr Al Sarab hotel. And if artist Christo eventually builds his legacy work, The Mastaba, at nearby Hameem, the appeal of this region would be even broader.
As conundrums go, this is a very good one to face. No matter where the museum ends up, Abu Dhabi tourism will be the winner.