Brilliant Stories

Ebertfest: A Celebration of Cinema in the Champaign-Urbana Area

April 8, 2024

Each year in the Champaign-Urbana area, cinephiles from around the world gather for a remarkable celebration of film at the Roger Ebert Film Festival. This annual event, also known as Ebertfest, is a tribute to the legendary film critic Roger Ebert and a testament to the enduring power of storytelling through film. This year from April 17–April 20, Ebertfest celebrates its 25th year anniversary!


Roger Ebert statue in front of the Virginia TheatreNamed after the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert, who was born and raised in Urbana, Illinois, Ebertfest pays homage to his passion for film and his profound impact on the world of cinema criticism. Roger Ebert, alongside Gene Siskel, famously introduced the "thumbs up, thumbs down" method of reviewing movies on their television show, "Siskel & Ebert." His insightful reviews and deep love for movies continue to inspire film enthusiasts and critics alike.




Ebertfest festival goers sitting at picnic tables under the Virginia Theatre marqueeThe Festival Experience

Ebertfest is not your typical film festival. Rather than showcasing the latest blockbusters or indie sensations, this festival focuses on presenting a curated selection of overlooked or underappreciated films that Roger Ebert admired during his career. The festival often includes a diverse lineup of classic films, documentaries, and independent features, each selected for their artistic merit and ability to spark meaningful discussions.




Seating seen from the stage at the Virginia Theatre

Unique Venue: Virginia Theatre

One of the standout features of Ebertfest is its venue—the historic Virginia Theatre. Located in downtown Champaign, this beautifully restored theater provides an enchanting backdrop for the festival's screenings and discussions. With its ornate decor and vintage charm, the Virginia Theatre adds a touch of old-world glamor to the festival experience. 




Engaging Panels and DiscussionsPhoto of a filmmaker panel at Ebertfest

What sets Ebertfest apart is its emphasis on audience engagement and intellectual discourse. After each screening, festival attendees have the opportunity to participate in panel discussions featuring filmmakers, critics, and industry professionals. These discussions delve into the themes, production, and cultural significance of the films, enriching the viewing experience and fostering a deeper appreciation for cinema as an art form. 




Young adults posing for a photo with the statue of Roger EbertCommunity and Camaraderie

Beyond the films and discussions, Ebertfest is a celebration of community. Attendees, ranging from seasoned film buffs to curious locals, come together to share their love of cinema in a welcoming and inclusive environment. The festival's intimate setting encourages meaningful connections and friendships among attendees who share a passion for storytelling through film. 




How to Attend Ebertfest

If you're considering attending Ebertfest, you can purchase tickets through the Virginia Theatre website here! While you're in between watching films, the Champaign-Urbana area offers a range of accommodations, from charming local businesses, fantastic eateries, green spaces (West Side Park is just across the street from the Virginia Theatre!) to a wide selection of hotels, ensuring a comfortable stay during the festival. 

In Conclusion 

The Roger Ebert Film Festival is more than just a series of movie screenings; it's a celebration of cinema's ability to inspire, provoke thought, and bring people together. Whether you're a seasoned cinephile or simply curious about exploring new cinematic experiences, Ebertfest promises a unique and enriching journey through the world of film. Will you be attending this three-day fanfare? Let us know by tagging us on our socials through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tiktok!

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