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American Graffiti is a 1973 film directed by George Lucas with a cast of actors who were relatively unknown at the time including Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford. Aside from producer Francis Ford Coppola (who was just coming off the success of "The Godfather"), the only household names in the credits were the rock-n-roll stars featured on the film's soundtrack, which included more than 40 classic songs from the era.
Shortly after it's release, the film was deemed a critical and financial success. Producers had budgeted only a little over $777,000. Lucas' passion project eventually earned an estimated return of well over $200 million in box office gross and home video sales
Although American Graffiti is set in 1962 Modesto, California, Lucas believed the city had changed too much in 10 years and initially chose San Rafael as the primary shooting location. But the San Rafael City Council immediately became concerned about the disruption that filming caused for local businesses and therefore withdrew permission to shoot beyond a second day.
Petaluma, a similarly small town approximately 20 miles north of San Rafael, became more cooperative and American Graffiti moved there without the loss of a single day of shooting.