News Local/State

Historic Virginia Theatre Opens For Public Tours


The historic Virginia Theatre in Champaign will be open for public tours, Saturday, April 13, from 1 until 5 pm. It’s the first chance many people will have to see the theater's interior since third phase of an expensive renovation project began.

"All of the paint and plasterwork has been restored, and there are new seats" says Laura Auteberry, who works in marketing for the Champaign Park District, the department that runs the theater. She says the theater also has a newly restored ceiling, a new marquee in the style of the original one, and plush new carpeting.

Auteberry says that while the space might look new, the renovation was designed to make the Virginia almost exactly as it was when it opened in 1921. During construction, Auteberry notes that workers actually discovered some vintage features in the Virginia that weren't aware existed anymore, including several murals on the ceiling that had become obscured by layers of paint.

Auteberry says that because of the murals, and other unexpected costs, the most recent phase of renovation cost about $5.5 million, more than was initially budgeted. But Auteberry says it's all worth it to have the Virginia Theatre open for the opening of the Roger Ebert film festival starting April 17 -- an event made bittersweet by the death of the Urbana-born film critic earlier in the month.