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Virginia Politics
Posted at 12:44 PM ET, 11/17/2011

Spielberg film pulls plug on Richmond’s capitol tree lighting

Yes, Virginia, there is a Grinch. But this year it’s not a green-skinned grouch who’s stealing Christmas in the commonwealth. It’s Steven Spielberg.


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and filmmaker Steven Spielberg meet in October to mark the start of filming of "Lincoln." ( Michaele White, Governor’s Photographer)
The director is filming “Lincoln” at the governor’s mansion and Capitol Square, and that means the annual capitol tree lighting has been called off.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s office announced the cancellation Thursday.

The news upset enough residents to prompt a Richmond-based TV reporter to ask McDonnell (R) about it during a Thursday afternoon conference call from India, where the governor is on a trade mission.

McDonnell said he did not know too much about it, except that as part of the state’s agreement with DreamWorks, Spielberg’s studio, “we had to keep several venues in and around Richmond reserved for them.”

“Honestly, they have taken over Mr. Jefferson’s capitol,” McDonnell quipped.

The movie is expected to pump $35 million into the state’s economy, so maybe Virginians will get over it.

A Christmas tree usually goes up on the south portico of the capitol building and has a ceremonial lighting in early December. There will still be a tree this year, but it won’t be set up until the 19th, when filming in that area is expected to wrap up, McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.

The tree will be lit, but there were no plans for a lighting ceremony. Not yet anyway.

“Stand by on that one,” Martin said.

Virginia skipped the tree-lighting in 2005 and 2006 during capitol renovations.

“This would be the third time in the last 20 years,” Martin said.

Four days of holiday mansion tours and two holiday open houses will go on despite the filming.

Details for the tours, which require appointments, and the open houses, which do not, are below. 

Executive Mansion holiday tours: For appointments, please call 804-371-2642:

Dec.14 — 2- 4 p.m.

Dec. 15 — 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Dec. 16 — 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Dec. 19 — 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.

Executive Mansion holiday open house dates and times. Appointments are not necessary for the open house.

Dec. 20 — 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. 

Dec. 21 — 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.

By  |  12:44 PM ET, 11/17/2011

 
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