Darren Franich
July 29, 2011 AT 03:09 PM EDT

George Lucas has been talking about Red Tails for a long, long time. If you look closely, you can find the film’s title mentioned in nearly every major article written about Lucas in over a decade. Especially during the slow-but-steady release of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the Red Tails project began to take on the aura of myth: It was the Film George Lucas Would Make Next, lurking just over the next dune. (To quote Spaceballs: “You said that three dunes ago!”) The film — which tells the story of the heroic African-American pilots in the WWII-era Tuskegee program — finally went into production a couple years ago, with a cast that included Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Bryan Cranston.

The film is credited to director Anthony Hemingway, but Hemingway’s commitment to HBO’s Treme meant that the director had to step away during a period of reshoots, thus leaving Red Tails open to future “Did George Lucas actually direct it?” theories (just like Spielberg and Poltergeist or Howard Hawks and The Thing).

Now, Red Tails finally has a release date: According to a press release issued by Lucasfilm, the film will open Jan. 20, 2012. Conventional wisdom says that late January is a strange time to release an epic war movie, but since when has George Lucas ever followed the conventional wisdom?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @EWDarrenFranich

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