Digital cinema and the legacy of George Lucas

  • Daniel Willis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Cinema history is strewn with moments of significant upheaval inextricably tied to the ontological evolution of the medium. Reappraising how we have defined and discussed cinema reveals a gradual process of growth often fraught with both anxiety and optimism. However, cinema’s latest technological advancement appears to have generated particularly vociferous discussion. This thesis re-assesses the perceived threat of digitisation to understand what exactly sets it apart from those preceding it.

The research considers cinema’s latest mutation by placing George Lucas at its core. Although he is a significant figure in cinema history, critical studies of Lucas are dominated by Star Wars, a topic which overshadows retrospective discussions about the wider legacy of his career. As such, I seek to build upon the paucity of material focusing on his role as figurehead of the digital filmmaking revolution. I cite a range of frequently overlooked and underappreciated primary sources like interviews and testimonies in order to construct a framework within which the subsequent analysis operates. This Lucas-centric approach offers a unique perspective on the digital cinema debate by directly engaging with one of its most vocal proponents.

The first core research question queries why the digital turn has generated such widespread apprehension for the future of cinema. In order to determine the extent of his influence, it then considers the role Lucas played in pioneering the digital filmmaking technology which has precipitated the digital turn. The thesis then questions how this technology has facilitated the broader democratisation of filmmaking, as well as its wider effects, before finally exploring how the digital turn has affected the use of paratextual material in both the narrative and promotional extrusion of the film text.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorSian Barber (Supervisor) & Stefano Baschiera (Supervisor)


  • Digital cinema
  • George Lucas
  • digitisation
  • digital arts

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