Virginia Tourism Corp. says release of “Lincoln” will create mega opportunites

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

The stars are lining up perfectly for Virginia’s tourism industry this year. With Disney planning to spend $35 million to market Steven Spielberg’s movie, “Lincoln’” —filmed entirely in Virginia —  the state’s tourism agency is gearing up for opportunities to give Virginia worldwide exposure as a tourism destination.

The timing couldn’t be better. The release of the movie about Abraham Lincoln is scheduled for December, two months after the 150th anniversary of the Sept. 22, 1862, issuance of Lincoln’s initial Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in Confederate states that had seceded from the Union.  The historical presidential document, issued under Lincoln’s war-time powers, didn’t take effect until Jan. 1, 1863, and was later ratified by Congress as the 13th amendment to the Constitution in January 1865.  Readings and commemorations are planned around the country. 

Virginia, a state known for its Civil War history, already has a fat list of events planned this year commemorating the 150th anniversary of many of the war’s major battles and campaigns. The premiere of a legendary director’s movie on one of the era’s key figures is more than icing on the cake; it’s every tourism director’s dream.
“For Virginia, it’s such a mega opportunity for us to have worldwide exposure as a Civil War destination second to none,” Tamra Talmadge-Anderson, the Virginia Tourism Corp.’s director of public relations said during a media luncheon Tuesday in Richmond.  She disclosed that she even has a small role as an extra in the movie.

Diane Béchamps, the agency’s vice president of marketing, told Virginia Business that Disney plans to spend $35 million to market “Lincoln.”  Virginia signed a contract with Dreamworks Studio, Spielberg’s film company, that includes several incentives for marketing, she added, including a premiere in Richmond, a trailer from the movie and footage from the filming that the agency will be able to use in its own marketing.  “The stars are lining up just right for us,” Bechamps said.

Among the initiatives shared during the luncheon will be marketing that invites tourists to follow in the footsteps of Lincoln in places he visited while in Virginia in 1864 and 1865.  There also will be campaigns to follow the footsteps of Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis — the actor who portrays Lincoln in the movie — while they filmed in Richmond. “We will have the power of Disney’s marketing behind us. We will be leveraging that,” said Rita McClenny, Virginia’s film commissioner. 

While Spielberg’s movie promises to be the most seminal event for Virginia in 2012, the agency announced several other initiatives Tuesday. Talmadge-Anderson said the state will focus more on love and less on romance in its promotion of the Virginia Is for Lover’s theme.  Virginia’s destinations offer people a chance to connect with those they love, and that includes families, where the state is starting to put more of its marketing focus. One trend that’s ticking up is travel by multi-generational families.  “You’re seeing extended families traveling together,” said Talmadge-Anderson.  They’re more value conscious than ever, and they’re booking later, she added, usually only a month in advance.

Other major tourism events coming up this year:
• Op Sail 2012 — Tall ships return to the port of Hampton Roads June 6-12. More than 20 ships are expected to join U. S. Navy ships in a salute to the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
• Museum of the Confederacy, Appomattox — The Richmond-based Museum of the Confederacy is opening a second location this spring that will include artifacts associated with the end of the war, including the uniform and sword Robert E. Lee wore when he surrendered the Confederate Army to Union Gen. Ulysses Grant. 
• Williamsburg Pottery — The retail institution reopens on April 5, following a $25 million facelift that’s adding 160,000 square feet of new retail space. 
• NASA Wallops Flight facility, Wallops Island, Eastern Shore — The facility will be doing live rocket launches at night that can be viewed by families, one of only four places in the U.S. where such launchings can be seen.

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