Chaz Ebert, executive producer of the annual Champaign-Urbana film festival named for her late husband, is taking issue with a report this week alleging declining revenues at Ebertfest.
The report by the (Champaign) News-Gazette, distributed to other news organizations by the Associated Press, said financial records show last year’s Roger Ebert Film Festival brought in about $111,105, compared with $137,200 in 2013.
In a letter addressed to the News-Gazette, Ebert said the report gave an incomplete picture by leaving out “other factors such as sponsorships and donors who contribute generously so that the festival can continue.”
While not disputing the overall revenue figures in the News-Gazette, the producer, who founded the festival in 1999 with Roger Ebert, wrote that it is not “a widget factory” and instead should be measured by the “cultural and empathetic exchange” it fosters.
“It was never meant to turn a profit, or to have a contest from one film to the next to see which one was the most popular,” she wrote. “Directors like to bring their films here because they get an audience of approximately 1,500 movie lovers who watch their film with rapt attention. No one is looking at cell phones or talking or being disrespectful. Roger himself wanted it to be an intimate festival akin to a temple to honor gems, films that deserved a bigger audience or a second look.”
The 18th annual festival is set to begin Wednesday at the Virginia Theater in Champaign.