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'The Screen' In Millennium Park Opens With Ebert Tribute On Late Film Critic's 71st Birthday

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SCREEN MILLENIUM PARK
"The Screen" will debut Tuesday evening in Millennium Park with a tribute to late film critic Roger Ebert on his 71st birthday, followed by a screening of "Chicago." (Handout) | Handout

On what would have been Roger Ebert's 71st birthday, Chicago's Millennium Park is opening the park's latest installment with a tribute to the beloved film critic.

Dubbed "The Screen" (for its proximity to the Anish Kapoor sculpture everyone calls "The Bean"), CBS Chicago reports the 40 foot wide, 22.5 foot tall fixture made up of LED lights will flicker to life Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. for a tribute to Ebert.

(Read director Jason Reitman's birthday tribute to Roger Ebert.)

The presumably Ebert-approved screening of "Chicago" will follow the tribute to kick off the park's new free movie series (the critic gave the 2002 picture 3.5 out of 4 stars upon its 2002 release).

With crisp picture quality (images are bright and visible day or night) and durability (strong enough "to have a car drive over it," says the park's general manager) The Screen, naturally, came with a price: $550,000.

No tax dollars, however, were used for the attraction: The Tribune reports The Screen was funded wholly by a mix of private donors and the founders of Millennium Park, Inc.

Donna LaPietra, chairman of the private non-profit that helps pay for the park's upkeep, told the Sun-Times the screen pays for itself.

“If we were to rent this screen for each event it would cost about $30,000 each time, not to mention the learning curve to operate it,” she said.

The Screen's potential is certainly exciting: officials say live feeds from anywhere in the world can be projected on The Screen (think Olympics, World Cup, presidential elections) and there are plans to host at least 55 events throughout the year.

At the unveiling Monday, LaPietra told the Tribune, "We hope that, ultimately, The Screen will be able to stand big shoulder to big shoulder with all of our other iconic features here in the park, the Bean and the (Crown) Fountain and the (Lurie) Garden."

Earlier on Ebert's birthday, his widow Chaz also revealed a contest to help finish the sci-fi story Ebert was unable to complete before his death in April.

"He began writing "The Thinking Molecules of Titan," a story about space exploration set in part at his beloved University of Illinois," Chaz wrote Tuesday on RogerEbert.com.

The excerpt Ebert had completed is on available on his site.

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