Stars come out for university's new facilities

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were on hand Sunday to unveil the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ lavish new facilities in commemoration of its 80th anniversary.

“We’re now officially a legitimate school — at least, we look like one,” Lucas told the crowd of donors and students assembled.

The two recently completed structures (which opened for classes Jan. 12) rep only the first stage of the $175 million all-digital complex, slated to be finished by August 2010. Still under construction are the Animation & Digital Arts building and four sound stages.

Introduced by school dean Elizabeth Daley and university president Steven B. Sample, Lucas spoke affectionately about the film school’s relatively inglorious appearance during his days as a student (“Back then, it was a lot funkier”) and its legacy as a pioneer in the often under-recognized arena of film studies.

“On a grander scale, SCA is teaching people how to communicate,” Lucas said. “This building was built not just for USC and USC students but for all students, all film students all over the world, who are struggling to improve their lot at their universities.”

Honorary degree-holder Spielberg poked fun at the fact that he was famously rejected by USC three times: “As you know, I have tried to have some association with this school, but eventually I had to buy my way in.”

To which Lucas replied, “I’ve got news for you, Steven. We’ve all had to buy our way in.”

Attendees were free to roam the classrooms and screening rooms as well as the extensive underground post-production suites, which include sound and picture editing rooms, a Foley stage, an ADR stage, a color-correction lab and a student production office.

The festivities got off to an early start Saturday night with a high-wattage private bash hosted at the new facility by Jeffrey Katzenberg, Spielberg, Lucas and Mellody Hobson.

Among the celebs on campus to celebrate with Daley were Sean Penn, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart, Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, Robert Zemeckis, Jay Roach and Susanna Hoffs, Diane Keaton, Hugh Hefner, Holly Hunter, Christina Applegate, Ron Howard, America Ferrera, Samuel L. Jackson, John Singleton, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Peter Guber and Ron Howard.

Guests were given tours of the complex before shuffling off to dinner in the courtyard, where they were treated to a performance by James Taylor and Carole King.

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