- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - The Virginia Theatre in Champaign is having a big year, bringing in more than $1 million in ticket sales so far in 2015.

Virginia Theatre director Steven Bentz said more than 36,000 tickets have been sold so far this year, up slightly from last year. Sold-out shows have included Alabama Shakes, the Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon and Vince Gill.

“It’s been a fantastic year - it shows the kind of things that can happen in this space, the range a space like this can provide, from comedy to music to dance to community use and film.” Bentz told The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1NEYGwH ).

The 1921 theater listed on the National Register of Historic Places was once abandoned before being restored. It now has shows almost every other night. Recent acts include comedians Paula Poundstone and Bill Maher.

“I feel like the word’s been getting around among promoters that this is a viable venue for a variety of acts, from country to comedy,” said Mitch Marlow, front of house coordinator for the theater. “The more we can deliver good shows, the more will come.”

The theater also hosts Ebertfest, an annual film festival founded by the late movie critic Roger Ebert and operated by the University of Illinois.

Champaign Park District Executive Director Joe DeLuce said the Virigina Theatre is at its peak since it started to be operated by the park district in 2000. Bentz said the park district had its first planned performing arts season of shows at the theater last year, publicizing most shows in advance.

Much of the money grossed by the theater in ticket sales goes back to those that rent the venue. Bentz said the theater has always been operated at a loss, and that it’s too early to say whether ticket sales will lead to its smallest deficit.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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