16 Annual Ebertfest Kicks Off in Champaign

Champaign -- The 16th annual Ebertfest film festival kicked off in Champaign Wednesday with a screening that kept the late Roger Ebert's spirit alive.

Festival-goers lined up outside the Virginia Theater, some waiting hours to secure a seat at the showing of "Life Itself," a documentary about the legendary film critic.

Once inside, audience members were seated alongside Ebert's wife and this year's festival host, Chaz Ebert, as well as documentary director, Steve James.

Some in attendance waited for more than five hours to claim their seat in the theater, but they say what happens inside makes the wait worth it.

"The movies, and the discussion, the camaraderie,"said Marilyn Marshall, a festival attendee for the past 16 years. "I don't know, it's the energy in the place with everyone in the theater and everybody there for one purpose--to see wonderful movies, and to talk about them."

The festival continues Thursday at noon, when a life-sized sculpture of Roger Ebert is unveiled. More than 100 people donated to bring the statue to the Virginia Theater, but organizers are still $18,000 short of their fundraising goal. To learn more about how to donate visit: http://ebertsculpture.org/.
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