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September 20, 2002

30 Millionth viewer sets record for "Story of a Patriot"

The world’s longest running motion picture reached another milestone today when the 30 millionth person experienced the film, “Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot,” the classic cinematic story of the American Revolution.

To mark the milestone, the historic viewer received a complimentary lodging and meals package at Colonial Williamsburg’s flagship hotel, the Williamsburg Inn, and other gifts. Colin G. Campbell, president and chairman of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, made the presentation to Don and Linda Carpenter from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, which houses the Patriot Theaters where the film has played daily since 1957 – 16,609 consecutive days to an average daily audience of 1,807.

“For nearly half a century, ‘The Story of a Patriot’ has inspired millions of visitors from around the world with the story of our nation’s founding and provided telling insights into how we became Americans,” Campbell said. “It will continue to inform and inspire our citizens for generations to come.”

The 36-minute film, directed by Academy Award winner George Seaton, was produced by Paramount Pictures for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to illustrate the ideas and the ideals that gave birth to the American Revolution and that came to life in 18th-century Williamsburg, then capital of Great Britain’s largest, richest and most powerful colony in North America. Through the eyes of colonial Virginia planter John Fry, the first leading role for actor Jack Lord who later starred in the long-running television series, “Hawaii Five-O,” the audience meets George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and other patriots who conceived the “idea of America.”

“Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot” is about the history of revolutionary America, but the motion picture itself now is a piece of history. The film originally was shot in VistaVision–a unique large format system which maximized visual and sonic impact and became known as Motion Picture High Fidelity. The pioneering movie technology included Todd-AO six-channel stereo in one of the first uses of “surround sound.” The twin Patriot Theaters are the only cinematic environments ever created for the exhibition of a VistaVision motion picture – a film, in turn, produced for use in those theaters alone.

The 45-year run of “The Story of a Patriot” is evidence of its enduring value to generations of Americans. Returning visitors to Colonial Williamsburg frequently make seeing “The Story of a Patriot” their first stop in this city-sized living history museum.
The original film currently is undergoing digital restoration. Robert Harris of The Film Preserve, Ltd., a New York company specializing in the restoration of classic films, is supervising the work in concert with Eastman Kodak’s CineSite digital facility, Pacific Title/Mirage and Todd-AO. Harris successfully has restored several classic films, including “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Spartacus,” “My Fair Lady,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window.”

The restoration of “The Story of a Patriot” is being funded in part through the generosity of enthusiasts of the film and friends of Colonial Williamsburg.

Significant commitments to the film’s restoration have come from Royce and Kathryn Baker of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., John and Marcia Donnell Jr. of Atlanta, Ed and Letitia Joullian of Oklahoma City, Bill and Gretchen Kimball of Belvedere, Calif., Ed and Dollie Lynch of Vancouver, Wash., George and Abby O’Neill of Oyster Bay, N.Y., Dick and Lois Vieser of Keene, N.H., and Bob and Marion Wilson of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. “The fact that this group comes from across the country is an important statement of the film’s significance, and Colonial Williamsburg’s far-reaching impact,” Campbell said.

Editor’s Note: Visuals available upon request.

Title: Williamsburg – The Story of a Patriot

  • Length: 36 minutes
  • Produced by Paramount Pictures for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
  • Longest running film in motion picture history – 45 years
  • Special premiere for the Williamsburg community March 31, 1957.
  • Shown for visitors continually since April 1, 1957.
  • Seen by 30 million in Colonial Williamsburg’s Patriot Theaters
  • Starring Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O) in his first lead role

    Director: Academy Award Winner George Seaton
  • Writer and Director – Miracle on 34th Street
  • Writer and Director – Airport
  • Williamsburg – Story of a Patriot is considered Seaton’s “most important” film

    Writer: Emmett Lavery
  • Court Martial of Billy Mitchell
  • The Magnificent Yankee

    Music: Bernard Herrmann
  • Psycho
  • Citizen Kane
  • Cape Fear
  • Taxi Driver

    Cinematographer: Haskell Boggs
  • Bonanza
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • High Chaparral

    For an archival photo of Williamsburg – The Story of a Patriot, please contact Linda McElroy at (757) 220-7287.

    Media Contact:
    Jim Bradley
    (757) 220-7281

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