film festival tourism



Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Why Go: To see an eclectic mix of films selected by ubercritic Roger Ebert.

Festival Description

Roger Ebert generously created this event as a gift to his hometown Champaign-Urbana, in Illinois. The festival features some of Ebert’s favorite movies along with an impressive guest list of cinema notables, making for a very enjoyable few days.

Festival Website:

Timing: Three days at the end of April.



An eclectic mix of old and new which draws on Ebert’s tastes and connections.

Special Guests

Just about every film shown features one or more of the filmmakers in person. Respected critics and scholars also attend to introduce films and to participate in round table discussions. Until his illness sidelined him, Ebert himself introduced each film. Now his wife Chazz acts as mistress of ceremonies and intros are done by various invited experts.


A devoted band of locals, mostly from the University community.

Screening Venue

The Virginia Theater in the center of town.

The Virginia Theater

The Virginia Theater

Screening Schedule

One event at a time beginning at or around noon each day and continuing until late in the evening.


Single tickets are $10 each and may be purchased by phone ahead of time. A limited number of passes are also available. There is ordinarily no problem with sold-out screenings.

Program Notes

The festival program book isn’t lavishly produced, but it’s filled with a vast amount of information and critical commentary, most written by Ebert. Informed formal introductions to each event also supply welcome background material.


This is the downside of the festival. To repeat the much-quoted quip about Champaign-Urbana: it’s not urban, and there’s no champagne.

Getting There

There are flights, trains, and buses to Champaign-Urbana from Chicago. Or you can drive.

Getting Around

You will need a car.


There is no decent hotel within walking distance of the theater. I stayed at the Hawthorne Suites, about two miles away, which was quite satisfactory.

Hawthorne Suites. 101 Trade Center Drive, Champaign, IL  61820: (217) 398-3400


Great Impasta. Close to the theater, quiet, good food. 114 W Church St. Champaign, IL  (217) 359-7377

Getting Around

There is a train from Chicago to Champaign, but you’ll need a car once you arrive. $100 gets you parking across from the theater for the duration of the festival; otherwise, you’ll have to cruise around to find parking spaces nearby.


See “Surroundings”.



Best Film I Saw: Underworld. Joseph Von Sternberg’s 1927 erotically charged gangster tale got a terrific boost from the Alloy Orchestra’s newly composed score.





2010 Program Book


Best Films I Saw

  • The Man with a Movie Camera. A newly restored print of the 1929 Dziga Vertov classic accompanied by colorful live score from the ever-inventive Alloy Orchestra.

The Man with a Movie Camera

The Alloy Orchestra in the pit of the Virginia Theater in 2009

  • Synecdoche, New York. Though I can’t muster the same deep affection I feel for Charlie Kaufman’s brilliant 2002 comedy Adaptation, this complicated 2008 film, which represents Kaufman’s first foray into directing, offers many diverse  pleasures. By turns farcical, melancholy and self-questioning, it is perhaps best viewed as a meditation on mortality set in a world where reality always hovers just beyond our grasp. Woody Allen meets Pirandello by way of Lewis Carroll.

Synecdoche, New York

Unexpected Pleasure: Witnessing professional-level presentations and interviews by Ebert’s cadre of amateur “far-flung correspondents.”

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