Several archivists from the University of Illinois descended into a basement storage room where the Chicago Sun-Times keeps thousands of film press kits.
The Sun-Times, which is moving offices later this year from its home next to the Merchandise Mart to office space in the West Loop, is donating the material to the university.
The move is a natural fit. The late Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert was a U. of I. graduate.
And the university is home to a film study program bearing the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist’s name. The Ebert Center was established in 2015 by the university and the critic’s widow, Chaz Ebert.
The Sun-Times collection contains promotional material for about 5,000 movies dating from the late ’80s to the early 2000s. Manila folders marked with movie titles such as “The Perfect Storm” and “The Phantom” hold glossy pictures of stars and printed reference material from studios explaining how the movies came together and how the actors and actresses regarded their characters.
Also contained in many of the files are newspaper clippings of Ebert reviews.
“For cinema studies students this is really useful stuff,” said university archivist William Maher, who took a break from moving cardboard boxes to chat Thursday.
“It’s a win, win, win,” said Sun-Times CEO Edwin Eisendrath. “It’s a win for the archive itself, which was not very well used here. It’s a win for us, because, frankly, I don’t have to solve the storage problem, and it’s a win for the university.”
The materials are being donated to University Archives, a part of the University of Illinois Library. The files will end up at in the university’s main library in Urbana-Champaign.
Also receiving material from the files is Northwestern University’s special collections library, which on Tuesday is scheduled to pick up the Sun-Times’ archive of pop music and television photos.