The annual Ebertfest film festival slated for next month in downstate Champaign has been postponed to 2022 due to the surge in COVID-19 across the state.
The announcement was made via YouTube from festival founder/organizer Chaz Ebert, the widow of Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, for whom the festival is named.
The new date for the annual celebration of films and filmmakers (officially titled Roger Ebert’s Film Festival) is now April 20-23, 2022.
“It is truly difficult to come to terms with this decision after everyone at Ebertfest has put in so much effort to come back from the shutdown,” Chaz Ebert said in the announcement. “However, we find it easier to make the decision to reschedule knowing that everyone’s health and safety comes first.”
The festival’s 2020 iteration had already been postponed because of COVID, to Sept. 8-11 of this year. As Ebert noted in her message, she never thought another postponement would have to be implemented.
“Perhaps we were destined to keep our springtime slot after all,” Ebert mused, citing hesitation on the park of filmmakers, sponsors and audience members to attend the festival amid current rising COVID infection rates.
The Virginia Theatre in Champaign, the venue for the festival, is transferring 2021 passes and seat reservations to the 2022 dates. Refunds will be issued if requested by calling the theater box office at (217) 356-9063.
Sales of tickets/passes to this year’s festival had been brisk as of Thursday’s announcement. Reduced seating capacity measures were also in place at the 1,600-seat historic theater.
“We usually sell 1,000 passes and keep 500 spaces open for single-sale tickets [per screening],” Ebert said. “But this year we cut off passes at 600 (single seats would have gone on sale next month) to keep the theater less than half full and really try to make everyone feel less crowded and safe and keep empty seats as needed around [individual parties].”
Ebert said the slate of filmmakers and other programming in place for this year’s fest will for the most part transfer to next April’s edition.
“An April festival will bring back our special guests and keep the dialogue with filmmakers central to the experience of the festival,” Ebert said.
NOTE: One of the events at Ebertfest was going to be the debut of the winning short films and filmmakers of the “No Malice Film Contest” co-sponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation and the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation. The contest’s 10 winners —filmmakers ages 11 to 21 — were to have presented their films at the festival on Sept. 11. Instead, the event will now take place on Sept. 19 at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at The Yard on Navy Pier.