BusinessCU-Covid19

Ebertfest prices increased up to 50% prior to postponing due to COVID-19

Claire O'Brien / For CU-CitizenAccess

Prices for Ebertfest tickets soared this year with passes increasing between 35% and 50% from 2020 to 2021, depending on the type of pass. The annual film festival started by the late film critic Roger Ebert in Champaign-Urbana in 1999, was scheduled for September 8 to 11 at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, but was delayed again because of concerns about COVID-19 pandemic.

The festival had previously been called off in the spring of 2020 due similar concerns about COVID-19, but returned this fall with the price increases.

Ebertfest has historically been held in April and the festival is now scheduled for April 20-23, 2022. Chaz Ebert, Roger Ebert’s wife and co-founder of the festival, made the announcement in a video. 

“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,” she said in the video. “However, we find it easier to make the decision to reschedule knowing that everyone’s health and safety comes first.” 

She also emphasized HVAC improvements will be made at the venue by the new dates in April. 

“Ebertfest’s postponement was not at the behest of the College of Media or the University of Illinois,” Andy Hall, one of the festival organizers, said in an email.

Student passes increased in price this year from $100 to $150, and general admission increased from $150 to $200. Four-pack passes increased from $510 to $700.

Hall noted that pass prices had been the same for several years, and the festival was going to re-evaluate the ticket prices even without the postponements.

“COVID itself led to further direct and indirect costs to the festival that had to be addressed and, after a well-attended focus group, the festival organizers decided that the event needed to happen according to a reserved seating model and with a limited capacity,” he said. “Far fewer passes would be sold for this event to create greater comfort and spacing between audience members, but this also meant that the cost of each pass needed to increase slightly.”

In addition to the festival itself, there has been a new ticketing system at the Virginia Theatre with a new ticketing fee structure. 

Ebertfest decided to absorb the costs of the ticketing fees within the festival pass cost, rather than having them as an additional fee on top of the costs we charged. This means that a good proportion of the increase in pass costs are actually associated with the inclusion of ticketing fees,” Hall wrote in an email.

Passes were $145 in 2015, and increased to $150 in 2016. Passes cost $150 in 2017, 2018 and 2019

The pass prices are the same for 2022, and individual film tickets, for those who don’t want a weekend pass, are scheduled to go on sale April 1.

Ebertfest officials released a partial schedule of films August 18, several weeks before the festival was scheduled to begin. At the time, officials said other film festivals do not release the schedule in advance. However, some other festivals announce the schedules ahead of time, and Ebertfest has done so in the past.

In 2019, the Ebertfest film schedule was released March 21, and the festival began April 10. 

Prior to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, organizers released a schedule of independent films that would be shown at the festival on December 4, 2019.

The True-False Film Festival, based in Columbia, Missouri, also releases its schedule several weeks in advance. In 2020, the festival was held March 5-8, and festival organizers released the schedule in a  February 14 press release.

Claire O'Brien / For CU-CitizenAccess

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