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Va. tourism pitch seeks to capture 'Lincoln' fans

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — State tourism officials are inviting fans of film and history to walk in the footsteps of Steven Spielberg and his "Lincoln" stars at the Virginia Capitol, the Confederate White House and the Dixie Restaurant in Petersburg, where the menu includes the "Spielburger."

"The Lincoln Movie Trail" made its debut Thursday as the state tourism office launched a website and self-guided tour of the locations used by Spielberg and his all-star cast in his epic on the nation's 16th president, which is released nationally on Friday. The movie, the third he's made in Virginia, was filmed entirely in the state and primarily in Richmond and Petersburg.

The trail got a Hollywood-style launch on the South Portico of the Capitol, which was transformed for the film into the White House and U.S. Capitol, with Lincoln look-alikes on Segways, large posters with Lincoln's hirsute likeness, the message "Lincoln was here" and a spitting image of the great man: David Foster was Daniel Day-Lewis' stand-in during the film.

"I've been doing this for 23 years," said Foster, who spent 47 of 53 days on the Lincoln set in the shadow of Day-Lewis. "It's been a hobby."

The tourism promotion is intended to tap into a growing revenue stream for Virginia: filmmaking. The industry's total economic impact was up 14.5 percent to more than $394 million in 2011. It also contributed nearly $60 million in state and local tax revenue.

Mindful of history and star power, tourism officials are banking on the movie attracting visitors for years to come.

"This trail is great because basically you walk in President Lincoln's footsteps, you can walk in Daniel Day-Lewis' footsteps and Steven Spielberg's footsteps," said Jennifer H. Carnam of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. City hotels are offering "Lincoln" packages, she said, and some attractions are giving discounts to visitors who provide a ticket stub from the movie.

The tour offers a blend of Hollywood and history, with Richmond standing in for Washington, D.C., and historic Petersburg portraying itself. Lincoln spent a good deal of the final days of the Civil War in both cities. As emancipated people cheered, he famously walked the streets of the smoldering former capital of the Confederacy in April 1865 as it fell to Union forces. Lincoln also spent about two weeks in Petersburg, home to the longest military siege on American soil. Its architecture still bears the scars of the war, including cannonballs embedded in brick facades.

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