12 April 2013 2:13 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

The weather outside was melancholy — sheets of rain and a thick blanket of fog — but inside the Chicago Theater, the mood was altogether exuberant at Thursday evening’s Roger Ebert memorial tribute. Entitled “Roger J. Ebert: A Celebration of Life,” the three-hour event featured more than two dozen speakers, ranging from local barkeeps to Hollywood luminaries, their heartfelt and often humorous testimonials rarely striking the same notes. A large gospel choir provided several roof-raising musical performances. It was, fittingly, a tribute to a man in full: critic and pundit, crusader and innovator, husband and father.

Even the choice of venue was apropos, not just for the bronzed plaque bearing Ebert’s name that adorns the Chicago’s State Street entrance — dating from a 2005 ceremony commemorating “Roger Ebert Day”— but because of the role Ebert himself played in saving the now-restored 1920s movie palace from potential ruin.

As one of the evening’s speakers, »

- Scott Foundas

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