Film Critic Roger Ebert Honored at Chicago Theatre Memorial

Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic died April 4 at the age of 70

Friends, family and filmmakers once again remembered a Chicago icon, this time at the theater where so much of his work was based.

The movie reviewer's widow, Chaz Ebert, welcomed her husband's fans to the theatre on Thursday, and remembered him as a father, friend, humanitarian and journalist.

A choir began the memorial by singing "Roger Ebert, we will always love you."

Among the star-studded speakers on hand were Andy Davis, director of "The Fugitive;" Michael Barker, president of Sony Pictures Classics; Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy; and Greg Nava, director of "El Norte" and "Selena." 

Hollywood actors and Chicago siblings John Cusack and Joan Cusack were also on hand.

Joan Cusack read a letter from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas remembered Ebert as a "cultural leader."

"Even if you didn't agree with him, you always felt it wasn't that he didn't think about it. You always got a fair shake. He was a great Chicago icon," said John Cusack.

Ebert attended hundreds of screenings at the Chicago Theatre and has the only star on the sidewalk in front of the theater beneath the marquee.

Ebert's death on April 4 came two days after he marked his 46th anniversary of becoming the Chicago Sun-Times' movie reviewer with a note on his website in which he said he would have to scale back his work as a result of his battle with cancer.

At his funeral Monday mourners lined up hours before services began.

"Roger was able to bring the spirit of American film alive," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "Whether or not we knew Roger, we knew he loved Chicago and Chicago loved Roger."

"We thank God for his purposeful life," Gov. Pat Quinn said, ending his speech with "thumbs up!"

Ebert will be honored next week at his film festival, Ebertfest, in Champaign-Urbana and on June 5 in Los Angeles with the Sundance Vanguard Leadership Award, presented by Robert Redford.

"Among the many things I admire about Roger Ebert is how he has long supported freedom of artistic expression," Redford said in a statement.  His influence and reach is as meaningful as his personal passion for cinema, and he certainly deserves this award."

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