CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Ebert Fest returned to in-person entertainment in Champaign this year, and at least one organizer said he was happy about the turnout.

“It felt very much like a normal Ebert Fest; I really didn’t notice a difference. I mean, we saw fewer seats because of COVID restrictions. We left an empty seat on each side of each group, but because they were spaced out throughout the entire theater, it felt like a full house to us,” festival director Nate Kohn said.

He said it almost felt like the past two years didn’t exist. And it’s been a long two years for two filmmakers – Azazel Jacobs, director of “French Exit,” and Ramin Bahrani, who wrote and directed “The White Tiger.”

“Their films were released during COVID, so this was the first time they were able to see their films with an audience. It meant a lot to them to finally get the closure of seeing their films with an appreciative live audience – a thing that they weren’t able to do during COVID,” Kohn said.

He said it’s still too early to give details on the attendance numbers, but the crowds looked full. The last show of the festival even sold out.