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The newly configured Millennium Park Film Series kicked off last night with a screening of "Chicago" and a dedication to our own Roger Ebert. The evening marked the official unveiling of the Frank Gehry bandshell's giant LED screen, said to be rare for its scale (a reported 40 feet by 22.5 feet) and its permanent installation in an outdoor public space like this one. In her introduction, Millennium Park, Inc., chair Donna La Pietra recalled working as an executive producer on Siskel and Ebert's show in the '80s. ("My main role was to have a quarter with me," she said. "That's how we settled every argument.")
Cultural commissioner Michelle Boone noted that Ebert had been passionate enough about the city's outdoor film screenings to write a memo when he once learned films were being presented in the wrong aspect ratio. Between speeches, the event also featured a screening of the clip reel assembled by Steve James and Kartemquin Films for April's Chicago Theatre tribute. The open-air presentations will continue Tuesday nights at 7:30pm throughout the summer, with a new movie musical every week.
To top it off, June 18 was Ebert's birthday. "I have a theory that he's looking down at us right now," Chaz Ebert, speaking before the screening, told viewers assembled both in theater seats and on the lawn. "So I want you to stand up and help me sing 'Happy Birthday' to him." The crowd sang, then followed Chaz's lead in giving the late critic two thumbs up.
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