VIP Pass Benefits

The VIP experience maximizes the opportunity to meet and interact with other sponsors, filmmakers and Ebertfest executive staff. Below are some highlights of Ebertfest events, meals and the VIP seating area.


Historically, there are three events at Ebertfest: The Gala Opening, the Mid-Festival Party and the Post-Festival Reception. Each has a different vibe but all of them provide an opportunity to meet other sponsors, filmmakers and people who make Ebertfest happen.  All these events have food, music and an open bar with wine, beer, soft drinks.  The food is hors d’oeuvres and desserts, though the Mid-Festival Party may also have pizza. Some  filmmakers (actors, directors, producers) usually attend these events if they are in town.  

President’s Mansion

The Gala Opening is on the opening day (Wednesday) of the festival.  It is hosted by U of I President (Dr. Timothy Killeen) and his wife (Dr. Roberta Johnson Killeen) at the presidential mansion. The mansion is a beautiful 14,000-square-foot Georgian revival home built in 1931. Most of the original furniture is still in use today.

Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Roger Ebert, world famous filmmakers, businessmen and philanthropists Arnold Beckman and Thomas Siebel, governors, Nobel laureates, Supreme Court justices have all been to the president’s mansion. And now YOU can too! 

Gala Opening

If the weather permits, part of the event is held on the beautifully landscaped grounds. In addition to meeting and mingling with sponsors and filmmakers, there is an opening ceremony overseen by Chaz Ebert. Several speakers welcome guests and set the tone for the festival. This is the fanciest of the events although attire can range from suits, cocktail dresses, business casual to blue jeans. A piano player provides background music.

Producer/Director Ben Lear With Sponsor at Mid-Festival Party

The Mid-Festival Party is on Friday evening after the last movie of the day.  It starts around 11:00 PM (though this may be before the last movie of the day is over) and some people are still around at 2:00 AM. This is a casual event, people are there to relax, interact and have fun.

The party occupies several rooms. One room has a live band and a bar, another has food and there are multiple smaller rooms where groups of people can talk. Starting with Ebertfest 22, the venue for this event is changing, so some of the above may not apply.

Relaxing at Post-Festival Reception

The post festival reception has been at a home – which feels very cozy.  However it may also be held in the activities room of a private dorm. It is on Saturday evening after the last movie of the day – so it, too, starts around 11:00 PM. A piano player provides background music. This party is a great place to say goodbye to friends – new and old – talk about Ebertfest and relax after a very busy day.

For Ebertfest 22, a new event has been scheduled.  It is on Thursday evening and, for lack of another name, let’s call it the Tavern Party.  It will be held at the Big Grove Tavern restaurant located across the street from the Hyatt Place (the host hotel for Ebertfest).  Since this is a new event a description is not available, but food and drink will be available – and of course great company is a sure thing. 


There are 6 meals included with the VIP pass: lunch and dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The meals are served in “the green room” which is not a specific place.  The green room could be an event space at the hotel or other venue or a private room at a local restaurant. Meal times and duration vary so be sure to check the schedule so you do not miss out.  Lunches can be either boxed lunches (these are upscale meals which offer a choice of different sandwiches and salads) or entrees and sides dishes served buffet style. Lunches may include chips, fruit, dessert, salad, pizza, pasta and soft drinks. Dinners are fancier and are served at your table by waitstaff.  A choice of wine (red or white) is available. Dinners include a main course, some side dishes and a dessert. A vegetarian option is available.

Sharing Dinner With Director Julie Dash and filmmaker Lateef Calloway 

Meals provide a very good opportunity to meet people, get to know them and talk about our mutual love of film. They also offer a unique opportunity to get to know filmmakers if one or more happen to be sitting at your table. There are no assigned seats so when you arrive, you can sit at any table where seats are available (tables sit 8-10).

VIP Theater Seating

One sponsor shared this experience from Ebertfest 20 while sitting in the VIP section. “While watching the film, ‘The Fugitive’, Andy Davis, the director was sitting directly in front of me. 

Back of Andy Davis’s Head at Showing Of ‘The Fugitive’

When watching ‘Selena’, writer/director Greg Nava was sitting two rows directly behind me. And when watching ‘The Big Lebowski’, Jeff ‘the dude’ Dowd, who the main character was based upon, was sitting directly behind me. It is kind of a kick to be in such close proximity to the people who helped create the movies I am watching.” 

If moviemakers attend a film (they usually attend at least their own film) they will sit in the VIP section.

The VIP section is on the left side of the theater (when facing the screen). While there are no reserved seats, only VIP pass holders and filmmakers are allowed to sit in that section. If you are late to a film, you do not have to worry about your seat being sold – as is the case with the non-VIP sections of the theater.