A statue of the late film critic Roger Ebert will sit in the most fitting location possible: Outside a movie theatre near his Illinois hometown.
A life-sized bronze effigy of the Chicago Sun-Times critic will be unveiled Thursday outside of the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Ill., which is located next to the small town of Urbana, where Ebert grew up.
The Virginia Theatre hosts the annual Ebertfest film festival started by the film critic, who passed away last April following a long battle with cancer.
The statue features a life-size version of Ebert sitting in a theatre chair giving his famous “thumbs up” sign. The bronze likeness is located between two empty movie seats, in which visitors can sit.
Ebert’s widow, Chaz Ebert, described the statue as “interactive art” in a recent interview with Associated Press.
“Roger, he would feel honoured that someone wanted to do this for him, but he almost would feel embarrassed because he was so modest,” said Ebert. “But he would be very grateful that they though enough of him to do it.”
During his lengthy career reviewing movies, Ebert won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975 – the first film critic to collect the award. He also co-hosted the popular TV program At The Movies with Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, who died in 1999.
Created by sculptor Rick Harney, the bronze likeness will sit outside the Virginia Theatre for Ebertfest, which kicked off this week and runs to Sunday. Festival organizers hope to make the statue a permanent fixture outside the theatre over the summer.
Ebertfest organizer Donna Anderson said that the concept for the statue, which is titled “C-U at the Movies,” came from a similar artwork Harney made of former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson.
“That how so many of us remember him, sitting in the theatre seat with his thumb up,” said Anderson.
A fundraising campaign to raise money for the statue – which cost $112,500 – is roughly $18,000 short, but organizers are confident they will raise the money before the artwork becomes a permanent fixture outside the theatre.
Shortly before his death, Ebert compiled a long list of movies that he would like to have screened at the festival. His widow said she and festival director Nate Kohn would choose films from the list, along with others that would have met with her late husband’s approval.
“We probably have enough movies for the next 10 years,” said Ebert.
An earlier version of this article included a headline that referred to Robert Ebert. That has been corrected to Roger Ebert.