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30 million visitors experience “The Story of a Patriot”

Film shown daily for 45 years at Colonial Williamsburg

Story of a Patriot Movie Poster

September 20, 2002

“Williamsburg – the Story of a Patriot” has been seen by more than 30 million visitors to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area. The film, shot in 1956 and directed by academy-award-winning director George Seaton (“Miracle on 34th Street”), gives visitors to Williamsburg a “you-are-there” look at the events and emotions that raced through the colonies in the 18th century. The film debuted March 31, 1957, and has been shown daily ever since, making it the longest-running film in American motion picture history.

Linda Carpenter of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., became the 30-millionth viewer to see “Williamsburg – the Story of a Patriot” in the theatre specifically designed for watching this film. Carpenter and her husband Don visited Colonial Williamsburg, in Williamsburg, Va., on September 20, 2002, and were greeted by Colin Campbell, president and CEO of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. To mark the occasion, the Carpenters were presented with a videocassette copy of the film, lodging at The Williamsburg Inn for two nights, two Freedom passes for admission to Colonial Williamsburg for one year, and other gifts.

Colin Campbell congratulates Linda Carpenter.

Colin Campbell congratulates Linda Carpenter.

The film’s story is told through the character of fictional planter John Fry, from 1769 to 1776. Fry struggles with the questions that faced all colonists in the years leading up to the revolution: Shall the colonies unite to oppose British punishment of Boston for its Tea Party? Meet Britain’s use of force with force? Declare independence? The choices made by the colonists were not easy ones, and, as the film depicts, family members and old friends were often at odds with one another over those choices. Through Fry, the audience is introduced to George Washington, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and other patriots who conceived the “idea of America.”

Projection room at Visitor Center

Earl Robinson prepares to show the film.

"The Patriot" was originally shot in Vista Vision, the first ultra-wide-screen film format, to maximize its visual impact. The pioneering movie technology included Todd-AO six-channel stereo in one of the first uses of “surround sound.” The twin Patriot Theatres at Colonial Williamsburg are the only cinematic environments ever created for the exhibition of a Vista Vision motion picture.

The film is currently undergoing digital restoration, funded in part through the generosity of fans of the film and friends of Colonial Williamsburg. 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 Pacific Title and Eastman Kodak’s CineSite. Harris has restored several classic films, including “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Spartacus,” “My Fair Lady,” “Vertigo,” and “Rear Window.”

Learn more about the restoration of the film