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updated: 4/13/2013 5:11 PM

Ebertfest theater shows off renovations

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  • The renovated Virginia Theater will plays host to the annual Ebertfest film festival beginning Wednesday, April 17, in Champaign.

      The renovated Virginia Theater will plays host to the annual Ebertfest film festival beginning Wednesday, April 17, in Champaign.
    Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

  • The Virginia Theater features new seats and restored artwork.

      The Virginia Theater features new seats and restored artwork.
    Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

  • The renovations to the Virginia Theater in Champaign cost more than $5 million.

      The renovations to the Virginia Theater in Champaign cost more than $5 million.
    Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette

  • Film critic Roger Ebert died April 4 after a long battle with cancer.

      Film critic Roger Ebert died April 4 after a long battle with cancer.
    Associated Press, 2005

 
Associated Press

CHAMPAIGN -- The Champaign theater that hosts the annual Ebertfest film festival is showing off more than $5 million in renovations before this year's festival starts.

The Virginia Theater in downtown Champaign was built in 1921 and was a favorite of film critic Roger Ebert, who grew up in neighboring Urbana. He died last week. The theater has hosted Ebert's film festival for several years.

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Bobbie Herakovich, executive director of the Champaign Park District, which owns the theater, told the News-Gazette the renovations have made the theater brighter and more comfortable.

Herakovich says the theater now looks more like it did when it opened, including similar paint colors on the walls. The Wurlitzer pipe organ has also been restored, along with the stage and balcony.

The theater was open Saturday for the public to tour.

"We still have a punch list of some little things, but the goal was to have substantial completion by Ebertfest," Herakovich said.

The film festival opens Wednesday and runs through April 21.

The latest renovation work at the theater led to some discoveries, including the uncovering of murals that were hidden beneath paint on the ceiling. They were restored and replaced.

Earlier restoration projects at the theater have included replacing the marquee to resemble its original fixture and rebuilding the lobby.

A future phase of work is planned to upgrade stage lighting and improve the projection room.

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