Goodbye to summer’s Outdoor Film Festival

First it was Venetian night that got sunk in a money-saving effort on the city’s part to cut costs to shore up a $520 million budget shortfall for 2010.

Now the Chicago’s Outdoor Film Festival is on the chopping block, after a decade of entertaining thousands of people and ranking as one of the city’s ten most popular summertime events.

In 2009, the free Outdoor Festival, held on seven consecutive Tuesday nights, from July 14 to Aug. 25, gave an estimated 183,000 Chicagoans an opportunity to view some of America’s greatest classic films, projected on a huge screen at Grant Park’s Butler Field, with the incomparable skyline as a backdrop.

“The production costs were more than the revenue,” indicated Cindy Gatziolis, spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office of Special Events. As a result, Special Events proposed the $300,000 line item budget cut in order to create departmental cost savings.

Corporate sponsorships throughout the past decade have never covered the Festival’s expenses, creating a fiscal liability for the city. When asked if the Festival could be reinstated in the future, Gatziolis said, “If someone comes to us, offering to cover the cost, we will not turn a deaf ear. It could be resurrected.”

Past years’ sponsors have included ComEd, Turner Classic Movies, WLIT, Charles Schwab Co., Metromix, WNUA 95.5, Comcast and the Chicago Transit Authority.

On average, 20,000-25,000 individuals attended the festival per night, weather permitting since Special Events started the free event in 1999.

For many years, Chicago-made shorts were part of the Tuesday night programs, giving local producers a tremendous outlet for their work to be seen publicly.

The July 21, 2009 screening of a classic Marx Brothers film, “Duck Soup,” the Outdoor Film Festival, in conjunction with the Goodman Theatre, gained notoriety when 4,436 film watchers donned Groucho Marx glasses, setting a Guinness World Record for the most people wearing Groucho Mark glasses.

The celebration of classic movies in Chicago is currently not scheduled to take place next summer. Other Chicago events about to become memories are Great Chicago Places and Spaces, Mayor’s Cup Youth Soccer, and Chicago’s Criterium bike races.